Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Eggs and Bacon - 'Walling Fuel'

When I was employed as a labourer, I hated taking sandwiches to work. 

Before I saw the restaurant scene in Goldsworthy's 'Rivers and Tides' it was already a ritual on my walling jobs for the guys and I to have eggs and bacon together at lunch. 

It seems strange, while everything else on the menu has gone up in price over the years, eggs and bacon still remains a very reasonable meal at most restaurants. So it continues to be a thing, now that I'm a boss, to treat the guys too to 'breakfast out' (around lunch time), rather than just go off and have them have to stay back at the job site eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Here are the bridge students all having lunch having breakfast together yesterday. 

The seemingly random clip in 'Rivers and Tides' of all the guys having breakfast was kept in the final cut for a reason. I believe the director/producer saw a connection. 

It has been my thought too that a curiously strong relationship exists between the quality (and output) of artistic dry stone work done on any day and those wallers on the job who have enjoyed having eggs and bacon together. 

Here is my student crew again, yesterday afternoon –everyone doing their best work, all fuelled up on a high performance breakfast of eggs and bacon.

Monday, June 26, 2017

David Wilson

Some years ago we arranged to have Richard Rhodes designer/artist/stone mason from Seattle,Washington speak one evening in Ontario at the Port Hope Library. It was a huge success. There were so many people waiting to attend the meeting that Richard had to speak twice that night.

This is looking to be a similarly, very cool, not-to-be-missed event. Start making plans to be here, a month from now, to attend a special 'Dry Stone Art' audio visual presentation by designer/waller/sculptor David Wilson

David F Wilson is a Scottish based Public Artist who has created artworks primarily for urban public spaces across a 30 year career. Many of his projects involve the creative use of stone combining a modern aesthetic with traditional techniques. 

David will illustrate his many varied stone projects to outline his inspiration, motivations & commitment to his the craft of working with stone.Travelling around the United States & Canada on a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship he is researching how other artists & craftsmen are developing their craft within contemporary situations.

Check out David Wilson's website www.dfwilson.co.uk

There will be limited seating.
Admission is free. Donations are gratefully accepted.
For more information call 905 885 4298 or email mcclaryharris@sympatico.ca

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Missing A Pier

Friday's unusually high flood water demolished one of our temporary pier supports, leaving the railway tie beam jammed under the form, directing the full force of the current against the north abutment, creating powerful eddies, eventually causing enough structural damage that, when the water receded, we decided, rather than shore up the stones, we needed to redo the entire north side of the bridge. 

We removed the voussoirs on that side, leaving the full weight of the south side voussoirs to cantilever the form in place while we worked all Saturday to rebuild the dry stone abutment with bigger stones. 

All the previous stonework including springers, foundation stones and hearting and shims and rubble needed to be removed!  

It's always 'disheartening' to take apart dry laid work.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bridge Drama

We arrived Friday morning, after an enormous amount of rain had fallen over night, only to see the creek risen more than a foot and a half from the day before, dangerously approaching the height of the wooden form supporting tons the our half finished arch of stones. 

It was still raining hard, so rather than struggle in the mud to try to keep building beside the raging creek, we took the day off to go on a field trip and visited another very soggy bridge site in Prince Edward County. 

It looked pretty impressive. There was more water going under it than I had seen since we built it nearly a dozen  years ago.

When we returned to the Salem Bridge site, the creek ( the river?) had swollen even more, and water was now pounding the side of the form. 

My concern was that a large limb or chunk of lumber might come crashing downstream when we weren't there to deflect it, and so jam the opening and push the form down stream or dislodge the submerged cement block piers supporting the beams below.  If that happened, our many tons of neatly arranged voussoirs would all likely go crashing into  the creek.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Non-Slip Bridging

Rows of flat voussoir stones laid almost upright across the width of the wooden arch are what forms the fanned barrel-shape curve of the dry stone bridge. While the more rectangular shaped stones can fit snugly together without any fear of them 'slipping', a triangular trapezoid stone ending up placed so that its narrower end points up, needs special attention. One way to make sure it doesn't slip down when the former is taken out, is to notch it into the voussoir beside it.

Look how happy these bridge builders are having completed the fourth day of our ten day Salem Creek bridge training course.
(There was far less rushing than the day before)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Let's not get cross when it comes to that bridge.

I admit I rushed and maybe pushed a bit too hard yesterday in order to have things ready enough to get the centering in place by the end of the day. 

I was reminded by the class that I said we wouldn't have to rush at all, and that they should listen to the stones and try to go at a speed consistent with these silent chunks of timeless geological prehistory.  I also told them they were going to have a lot of fun in the next two weeks.  

Today I'm going to try to correct things and bridge the gap between what I say and what I do, and hopefully the hiccup of my inconsistency yesterday will be forgiven and become nothing more than water under the bridge.   

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Unabridged Bridge Workshop Experience

Like the level of the creek on the second day of the Salem Creek bridge workshop, which just keeps on rising, students taking the two week training course are getting an ever increasing variety of experiences.

A number of participants are learning to shape the many voussoirs we will need for the bridge arch.

Some are getting instruction building the abutments along the bank.

Others appear to be working on bankers in the middle of the creek shaping pier stones .

A few got their exercise wrestling three of the 800 pound springers into place.

Then off for a first field trip to see several of the dry stone features in the area, including the Gothic arch folly at the site of the 2005 Canadian Dry Stone Wall Festival, built in Port Hope Ontario by professional wallers from Scotland, Switzerland, United States and Canada 

And finally, a full course meal (thank you Mary) at Dry Stone Walling Across Canada headquarters, with lively discussion into the evening about, you guessed it, stones and future bridge projects.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

There's a bridge in the future

Happy bunch of student bridge builders, including Peter Ryder from the Stone Trust, all gathered in the creek at the end of the first day of the two week training course. Check back here tomorrow to see the progress

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Miniature stones from Major Stones

One of the things students will likely be doing at the two week Salem Creek bridge building course (especially if the weather gets too stormy) will be designing and building their own tiny bridges inside the class room, using the very chips and wedges left over from shaping the full size bridge voussoirs.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wood plays a supporting role

This lovely wooden form (otherwise known as a former or centering or falsework) was built yesterday, to later be placed over the stream  in order to temporarily hold the many tons of stone that will be suspended in a carefully fitted barrel shape over Salem Creek, during our two-week bridge building training course coming up soon.

It seems appropriate to be fastening together pieces of wood, a non-manufactured natural material, to be the strong (though temporary) support for the tons of equally natural material, stone, which will all be fitted and locked together permanently in the construction of this Lake District style packhorse bridge project.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Brrrridge Prep.

Salem Creek is cold and the water is running fast this week. 

Yesterday we worked in the chilly water (and rain) to get the large cubes of foundation stones securely bedded below the surface on one side of the creek. All this in prep for the dry stone bridge workshop the students will be taking next week. 

Monday they will learn how to do a similar foundation on the opposite side of the creek and find out just how cold the water is for themselves.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Springers are here.

Went to the quarry on Monday and hand-picked some voussoirs for the dry stone bridge we will be building next week with the students taking the two week Salem Bridge Workshop.

We also picked up a few stones with natural shapes that will do very nicely for the bridge 'springers'. 

One of them was pretty large. I'd say it was about 800 pounds.We will likely split it down the middle with feather and wedges and make two 400 pound springers out of it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Weekend To Grow A Tree

On the weekend of June 10 and 11, volunteers and students taking a unique Dry Stone Walling Across Canada sculpture workshop rallied together to build a commemorative tree at the Ennismore Robert E Young Complex .  

Gail Murray of the Ennismore Horticultural Society was the organizer of this unique even. The dry stone tree 'grew' over two days of friendly cooperation, creative problem solving  and a lot of heavy lifting to now become a permanent art installation and a "forever landmark" in the village for all to enjoy.

The heavy stones in the last two feet of the ten foot structure were drilled and then carefully lowered over the centre rod to secure the whole structure permanently.

Kids in community and their moms helped 'heart' the inside of the tree all the way up.

Standing above the sections of scaffolding, on the tree itself, Barry and Andy lifted the last 'branch stones' into place.

The Happy Tree Growers

A big thanks to Gail (in the middle) and to local resident Don Young (on the right) who laid the concrete pad and to Jeff Parnell who provided the quarried dolomite.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Surrounded by Stones

Surely dwelling in a place that is surrounded by stones would be a good thing.

A kind of gentle growth, a development would happen. New thoughts and ideas might begin to naturally materialize. 

Perhaps stones 'block' other things like wifi for a reason, especially inside a stone building. 

Instead of an endless barrage of microwaves, radio waves and undetected electrical signals, silently screaming past and through our impressionable minds, perhaps after being surrounded by stone for a while other more important signals begin to seep in, over time. 

We might then start to tune into, if only unconsciously, the vast expanse of time and mass and solidity (and awesomeness) contained within the silent walls of rock solid 'blocks'.  

Though this is just a tiny one, there is an inexplicable attraction many of us find to life-size dwellings of this sort, however primitive.  I would like to live here in this miniature hut and find out why. Yes my iPhone reception will be lousy. 

Maybe it's because the stones are trying draw us closer in order to be with us without our phones and have us really discover what is really going on.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A different spin on things

I found these stones on the beach. They look like normal stones but they're not.

This one I found is called a 'celt' or a wobblestone or a rattleback. It is a semi-ellipsoidal stone which will rotate on its axis in a preferred direction. If spun in the opposite direction, it becomes unstable, "rattles" to a stop and reverses its spin to the preferred direction. This spin-reversal appears to violate the law of the conservation of angular momentum.

Next time you go to the beach, take a bread board or a piece of plywood maybe and see if you can discover one or two canoe shaped stones that can spin on a flat surface and then magically spin in the opposite direction. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

I've just seen a face

I've just seen a face
I can't forget the pile or place
Where it got left, 
A perfect square, I'm thrilled
And I've got all this wall to build,
today. mm-mm-mm-m'mm mm

Had it been another day 
I might have looked the other way
And I'd have never been aware
but as it is, I'll fit that square
in tight. di-di-di-di'n'di

Walling, yes I am walling
And I'll be hauling that rock with me.

I have never known
The like of this, a perfect stone
And I don't miss things
Ive looked left and right
and other stones were never quite
Like this, di-di-di-di'n'di.

Walling, yes I am walling
And I'll be hauling that rock with me.

Oh walling, yes I am walling
And I'll be hauling that rock with me.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Better than a cool breeze

If you've got a cool breeze, that will usually keep the bugs off when your working. But if you don't, someone tipped me off about how to still keep mosquitoes away when you are out in the country building walls.
You rub your clothes and arms and head with sheets of fabric softener. 
I tried it last week. It actually works. It's fabulous.
- a kind of 'Fab-Breeze'