Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Classical Music Rocks!

The La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra posed for a promotional photo shoot in front of the walls and folly we built at the Dry Stone Walling Across Canada 2005 festival in Port Hope Ontario. 

The orchestra has continued to provide an educational and musical environment for the past 18 years for young musicians with the stimulating experience of performing a wide range of symphonic repertoire. The LJYO performs full orchestral programs in December, February and May.

The Orchestra serves students from the region bounded by Oshawa, Belleville, and Peterborough. Concert tours of private and public schools, and field trips to professional performances, are integral to the season calendar.

LJYO’s 17th season begins with their annual concert ‘Home for The Holidays’, scheduled for Sunday December 6 at 3pm at Port Hope United Church. LJYO welcomes special guests The Voices of Cambridge Street United Choirs from Lindsay, Ontario. In addition to collaborating with LJYO every second year, this amazing chorus, under the directorship of Erwin Stroobach, has performed widely across Ontario, Quebec, The East Coast and New York City.

‘Home for The Holidays’ features seasonal favorites including Christmas at the Movies, All is Well, Breath of Heaven, Christmas Festival and more. The premiere performance of Gloria, an original composition by Erwin Stroobach, is sure to delight.

Also on the concert lineup this season are ‘In the Spotlight’, February 28, 2016, featuring solos by some of our most talented musicians, and ‘Sonic Bloom’, May 15, 2016, the annual welcome to spring. Soup and Symphony, the annual soup and silent auction fundraiser, returns April 9, 2016. 

P.O. Box 134
Port Hope, ON
L1A 3W3
1-866-460-LJYO (5596)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Very Complex CGI

Thanks to Dave Claman for sending me the link yesterday to a very clever modelling animation which I watched and found completely absorbing. Many of you will enjoy watching the  video too (its quite short) so I've posted the link to it below.  

Walking City is an award-winning evolving video sculpture created by digital design studio Universal Everything.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dry Stone Walling Acrostics

The familiar letters D S W and A often appear together in a number of surprising places having nothing to do with dry stone walling. Here's one example we saw in a very stylish mall in Los Angeles last winter.

Education Building 2015

Here is another. This is the main headquarters of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority.

It all makes sense, really. As with other DSWA organizations, Dry Stone Walling Across Canada sees itself as both a stylish alternative to concrete lanscape products and equally proficient in recycling solid waste (usually stone material) in the most environmentally aesthetic and sustainable manner.

We built this stylish wall over 12 years ago from inexpensive solid waste material cleared from a local farmer's field.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Mobile and the Immobile

This delicate mobile was made by my friend Tom Dolan and given to me as a gift. Thank you, Tom.
The stones are carefully hung from wire arms linked together with tiny hand-made chains . Like a wall it has to be constructed starting from the bottom up, always making sure the parts are balanced and remain well poised as more weight is joined to it   The equilibrium established through cleverly maintained connectivity and spacing gives it its 'mobility' . And so, like a well built dry stone wall, it 'sings' and dances and moves with every breath of inspiration and still never comes apart.  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Hedge Fun Simplied

Sara's Garden in Brockport N. Y.

Hedgerows of cedar and stone, all with secure low risk bonds, safely kept more or less at face value, make most field and street walls relatively 'stock proof'. Using up the stockpiles of material you have been accruing, is the basis point for all wise investing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Mark Ricard like others wallers across Ontario tried a bit of dry stone walling in the blowing snow this week. We like to call it 'snowsk-walling'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Proper Jumping

Children enjoy jumping over them, whether they are badly built or not. Self appointed critics and authorities on walling only jump on the bad ones.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A way of not making a living

 Dry stone art installation by Scott George

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”    Kurt Vonnegut 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thinking With Her Hands

Seen here with some of the others who attended one of the earliest Dry Stone Walling Across Canada training courses Mary and I ran at Balsam Lake Ontario back in May of 2004, Hilary Martin went on that same year to participate with ten other stone enthusiasts in the building of Springdale Bridge. This was a bridge building workshop we ran during the first ever DSW Across Canada festival, held in Port Hope Ontario back in October 2004, Thanksgiving weekend.

In trying to describe to me how amazingly different the mental process was learning to build with stones, she exclaimed " It's like,.. like - thinking with my hands!"

" That's it, " I said. " That's the best  explanation yet I've heard for describing what it is that makes walling such a cool thing. "

She very kindly gave me permission to use the expression 'thinking with my hands', and I have continue to do so ever since, in workshops, and many of the talks I've given about walling, and of course later on in 2010 it became the title and main theme of this blog.

Over the years Hilary has gone on to attend many walling events and has become a proficient thinker both with her hands and as well as with her keen analytical mind. 

It was a treat to meet up with her again and work together back at the Perth Dry Stone Bridge Festival last August. Thanks Hilary for your friendship and your continuing inspiration.

"Yes, I know it was your idea, but it was my idea to use it"

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Raising The Standard Question

Other than the fact that laying all the stones horizontally is the only style of walling that's gonna get you a pass in a standardized test, tell me again - why we shouldn't have laid these stones this way ? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Visionary Stone

We should try to live in the geological present, not the past, which often contains merely remnants of things that have been over valued, over used, broken, discarded, and then most likely become completely irrelevant. 

Despite what the archelogists, the masonic-lodgists and the apologists of antiquity say, stones bring the 'NOW' to us. Their mere durability tells me too, that they are even more committed to the future.

While proponents of good stonework can respect the past, we must keep in mind that for stone to 'work' it must remain closely bound to what is going on in the here and now. 

Things like mass, gravity and friction have to be 'happening' constantly for there to be any structural strength, rather than relying on the inconsistencies of human conventions or the limitations of academic theorizing and historic backtracking. Distorting the past with conjecture and trying to explain away the backlog of mysteries on this earth left to us in stone by ancient civilizations far more clever than ours, only serves to distract us from our present task of discovering what is possible and necessary to do in this 'stone age'.

Armchair masons and parlimentary stonewallers, who need to slow things down and keep things together with rules and archaic regimes may not be very happy, but progress can only be made in the present. To discover 'experientially' something 'in the now', even if it just a fragment of what we used to know in the past, is better than merely thinking we know something.

Exercised Rocks

In colder climates, the up and down motion of the soil below a poorly built wall can sometimes cause the rocks above to shift out of position, and eventually fall off. This movement is the result of what is called the 'freeze-thaw cycle' Moisture in the earth freezes and pushes upwards, and later when the earth thaws, it causes the ground, and the wall, to subside.

A 'heavy' rock exercises a lot of downward force on the ground, and the actual movement associated with any freeze-thaw cycle may not be that obvious. You'll seldom see individual rocks actually moving, shifting or tipping, but if you're lucky you might see one 'out for a spin'.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Night Magic

Last night's 'super moon' rose spectacularly over Brockport New York. We watched as it slowly slid into position just for the crowd gathered at Sara's garden to veiw it shining through the new dry stone moongate that we built back in October, exactly 30 days ago.

It was a marvellous night for a moongate.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Creative Act

After he and Clare had dinner with us one night, Farley Mowat started telling me how his writing was going. He was in fact quite disappointed at how little he'd accomplished that day. We talked on for a while and then I took the opportunity to ask him if he had any thoughts on, or had ever written about the creative process.

His voice took on a serious tone, “What do you mean?”

"Well," I said," I've always been very interested in understanding where inspiration comes from and how creative ideas are formed. I remember enjoying reading Arthur Koestler’s book, The Creative Act a long time ago, and since then I’ve often found myself trying to analyze — as he did in his book — what happens, what goes on, when a writer, composer or artist is being inspired creatively ”.

Farley looked visibly alarmed and said in a disapproving way, “I never think about that at all, and neither should you. I don’t try to analyze where creativity comes from or ever try to look over my own shoulder when I’m writing".

He spoke as if he thought that to venture there was somehow entering forbidden territory. “

Anyway,” he argued, “ it's nonsense to try to understand that sort of thing. It's like trying to see beyond the grave or foretell the future. "

"On the contrary, I think it's more like trying to explore in the opposite direction." I said. "It's more a kind of peering into the source of life, a looking beyond one's beginnings, into our origins as human beings, and not just know that creativity is fundamental to who we are, but try to begin to recognize how it comes to us, and where it comes from."

"You're crazy." he said. "I'd leave that stuff alone. "

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Surely it's as bad as it seams?

We came across a dry stone wall in Lancashire a while back that was obviously being rebuilt. I was interested in the visible partitions along it creating zipper joints every ten feet or so. 

These seemed to be places repair work on the wall had stopped for the day and then started again the next day.  The seams seemed far less seamless than other wall repairs I've seen in my travels. 

These obvious breaks in the stonework came about by trying to join up to previous repair work which has not been staggered gradually enough to integrate any new stonework into it. You would think a dry stone repair with such disconnected sections like these one would make the wall very weak .

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fall Wall

For the Fallen - Laurence Binyon
Probably the most famous and widely read war poem in English and also known, in extract form, as the Ode of Remembrance, For the Fallen was first published in The Times on September 21 1914, just a few weeks after the First World War began on July 28 that year. Binyon was too old to enlist as a soldier in the Great War, but volunteered in hospitals helping wounded French soldiers, and wrote For the Fallen in Cornwall shortly after the Battle of the Marne.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Vertical and horizontal in miniature

Above are photos of sections of two different miniature circular walls I built basically out of random shaped course gravel that I had kicking around in a five gallon pail.

Both walls had their stones (if they had any length) placed lengthwise into the wall structurally, but the first had them placed so that they also lay relatively horizontally, and in the second wall they were placed as vertically as possible.

It so happened that the squirrels completely knocked down the first horizontally aligned wall when a bowl of stale Doritos  was inadvertently placed near it. The second vertical wall has not yet been subjected to any such 'accidental' test.

This is in part thanks to my grand daughter Lucy who made quite sure no squirrels 'bothered' the second wall when she was here visiting.  She and my grandson Andy ate all the Doritos : there won't be any stale ones.

But my bet is that, even if they squirrels do come, the vertical wall will sustain far less damage.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Which would you vote for?

Disregarding the wall's thickness for the moment, consider carefully stacking a selection of flattish random stones horizontally, in courses, between two upright boulders, in a way that is well bonded and structural.  

Now, consider using the same stones and this time stacking them vertically, wedging them securely against each other, between the same upright boulders which are spaced the same distance apart. Which wall do you think is stronger?
Which one couldn't you push down very easily?  Which do you think would last longer? Which looks more interesting? Which would you vote for in an open walling competition? 

I know the one I would vote for.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Outdoor Sport

This old dry stone retaining wall that runs along side the entire length of the football field of Lakefield College School likely would have been built when the school was founded back in 1879.
As you can see it is now in need of some major repair.
I was asked to lead about a hundred of the students in an unusual athletic project involving the dismantling and rebuilding of the wall.

Two weeks ago the students began the fun task of preping the site by rolling all the stones away.

As the old wall was taken apart, new friendships were formed

This is how it looked last month when we assembled again to do some preliminary placing of the larger boulders

This was my volunteer team for that brisk Sunday afternoon  in October

We got about 50 feet of foundation done of large face boulders.

Some of the boulders would have needed two or three men to move them, but none of the rocks were any match for the eight strong school athletes who wrestling each one into position.  

Well done team!

See you on the 20th of October for more special outdoor sports activity.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ewe too?

Photo courtesy of Sean Adcock

I wanna run, I want to hide,
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside. 
I wanna sneak out 
And run down the lane 
Where the sheep have no name. 

I wanna feel sunlight on my fleece 
I wanna bust out of here before I freeze 
I wanna take shelter And avoid the rain
Where the sheep have no name 
Where the sheep have no name 
Where the sheep have no name. 

We're still stuck in these walls, 
And the grass is too tough. 
Let's find better stuff
And when I go there
I go there with ewes 
(It's all we can do) 

They tag and spray us with paint
But vegetarians they ain't ! 
We're bleating and bloated with weeds 
Trapped in this fold 
'Til were auctioned and sold 
Let's get out of this game 
(to) Where the sheep have no name
Where the sheep have no name 
Where the sheep have no name.

Rewrite of this song was inspired by various musical ramblings of my good friend Mark Ricard

Tuesday, November 1, 2016