Saturday, October 28, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fixing a hole where the rain ran down.

While there are miles and miles of old dry stone walls to see when we were walking the hiking trails in Mallorca, I was curious to see this particular section near the summit of Teix between Deia and Valldemossa yesterday. 

Ten years before a few of wallers including Patric McAfee and I had hiked this section during the famous Stonefoundation Symposium. We noticed one of the small sections of the wall that had collapsed had all the stone still lying around, and thought to ourselves, why just enjoy all the good walls on our hike and merely walk past all the others that need fixing? Why not stop and do a little repair as a way of saying thanks?

We took an hour or so and used the very same stones to rebuild the terrace path and then walked on our merry way to Valldemossa. 

I was pleased to see the wall still looks in fine condition today. 

Perhaps acts of this kind of 'walling kindness' should be a regular part of the requirement for proffessional wallers coming to enjoy all the stone terracing and dry stone walls in this part of the world.

This small gap (for instance) might only take a morning for good waller visiting the island to fix as part of his or her holiday.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

On site at the Med. Stone Congress

Dr Who is on site this week at the Med. Stone Congress in Mallorca organized principally by Lluc Mir Anguera.  There are about 12 people learning the Mallorcan style of walling including myself and Sean Adcock. Here in this photo the Doctor has just helped Frederique and Miquel complete a dificult capping of the workshop wall being repaired near the church on the hill in Deia.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Jenga and Walling

To say walling is just like puzzle is like saying Jenga is just like demolishing sky scrapers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Raise a cup to the wall !

Paraic Poil a prolific Irish dry stone wall builder who lives on Inisheer island showed me this cup he was given with a photo of a section of curved wall he built. It wraps almost around the entire cup. We saw the wall earlier in the day . It’s quite tall and like many of his walls very impressive. I think he should get a whole set of cups made up with other sections of walls. I’m guessing he’d have no trouble stacking them on his shelves. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Corner Terracing

The hard to mow slopes on properties like this one can be totally transformed by terracing them with dry laid stones.

Instead of having to struggle mowing the grass on the slope, now a flat area has been created for a leisurely bbq meal and a fine space to sit and watch the neighbours cut their steep grassy slopes.   

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Drive around the block

This peaceful arrangement of stones I saw when I was last in LA, all methodically fitted together (with no mortar) created a curious rather out-of-place cube structure standing so close to the curb. It stands there, a kind of aesthetic speed bump, and calming antithesis to the frenzy of traffic activity wizzing around. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Seaweed Eating Sheep

 The North Ronaldsay sheep dyke. PIC: Orkney Sheep Foundation.

More help is needed to restore the dyke , which is Grade A listed. PIC: Orkney Sheep Foundation / SelenaArte.

A campaign to save the unique seaweed-eating sheep of North Ronaldsay and to restore the historic 13-mile dyke which protects the rare breed has been stepped up. Around 2,500 North Ronaldsay sheep inhabit the shoreline of Orkney’s most northerly isle and survive solely on the kelp churned up by the sea.

 The 13-mile dyke which keeps the sheep on the shoreline is falling down - putting the future of the breed at risk. PIC: Orkney Sheep Foundation / SelenaArte

 Islanders are leading a campaign to restore the dyke and preserve the flock which is owned by around a dozen North Ronaldsay residents. The dyke not only contains the sheep from other breeds but keeps them away from grass on the island given their special diet has made them vulnerable to copper toxicity. READ MORE: Was Orkney home to an Inuit settlement? 

The wall, probably the largest continuous dry stone dyke in the world, is Grade A listed but every year sections fall away due to the weather, waves and its age. More help is needed to restore the dyke , which is Grade A listed. PIC: Orkney Sheep Foundation / SelenaArte. While volunteers work with local people to restore the dyke during a fortnight in the summer, permanent staff will be now be recruited to help lead the preservation of the wall given the pressing need for its restoration. It is hoped more volunteers will be attracted to North Ronaldsay as a result with hopes to set up training in dry stane dying.

The best 20 prehistoric sites in Scotland Heather Woodbridge, a director of the North Ronaldsay Trust, said: “The dyke is Grade A listed - the same as Edinburgh Castle - but it is almost as it is forgotten about. “The dyke is really important to the survival of the sheep. It’s important to keep them on the shore and it is also symbolic of the old ways of farming. Once it goes, it goes. “We really need help to keep it maintained and we have been working really hard to get to this point. Things are really starting to happen now. “There are always some bits of the dyke that go down each year so its repair is an ongoing task. It is not a quick fix and we need a sustainable plan for the future.” 

The sheep have been on the shore since 1832 when they were moved off the land to make way for more lucrative cattle with the wall built by the laird to keep the sheep from the pasture. It is believed that, apart from a single kind of lizard from the Gal├ípagos Islands, they may be the only animals in the world that can survive entirely on seaweed. Males stay on the shore all year round with the breed the fattest during the winter when the storms churn up vast amounts of seaweed. Pregnant ewes are moved away into stone enclosures - or punds - in the Spring with the “punding” organised to coincide with the full moon and high tide. This makes it easier to catch the sheep given the high water levels reduce the space where they can run to. The mutton from the North Ronaldsay flock is well regarded and was served to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee. The sheep’s wool is spun on the island and sold far and wide. 

This year, dozens of volunteers arrived on the island to assist locals rebuild the wall during the two week North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival in the summer. Around 320 paces - or metres - of wall were restored with the results hailed as a great success. Ms Woodbridge said: “The people who came here really fell in love with the island and the culture of the place. They really felt they were doing some good. She added: “Islands are fragile. You look at what happened at places like St Kilda. That’s not going to happen here. We’re not going to let that happen.” The population of North Ronaldsay has fallen from almost 550 in the late 1800s to fewer than 50 today. The 2018 North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival will run from July 29 to August 10 and applications are now open for volunteers. The stretches of wall to be restored during the fortnight will be decided by the island’s Sheep Court which was set up in the mid-1800s to manage animal numbers on the island During the 1970s, the father of Adam Henson, farmer and television presenter of BBC’s Countryfile, led the first major conservation project of the North Ronaldsay sheep. Joe Henson MBE was one of the original founders of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust which bought the island of potential Linga Holm, off Stronsay, to create reserve flock of the breed. It was feared at the time that oil exploration in the area could potentially pose a risk to the breed. The sheep were later distributed in small flocks across the mainland. It is understood that the sheep are the only landa animals able to survive solely on seaweed apart form the Galapagos marine iguana.

Read more at:

Friday, October 20, 2017

Safe Harbour

Looking like discarded pieces of some giants 3d puzzle, this pile of concrete cube clusters creates a strong structure that holds together better than a single formed poured concrete jetty. The idea is based on maximizing friction by having space end up between all the shapes and allowing for a variety of combinations of connectivity to come into play. Dry stone walls work and hold together for the same reason. For any one who is a waller this is a very gripping subject. It's very satisfying to see concrete starting to be used less mindlessly.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Good Marketing. Good Bonding.

At a recent workshop John Scott had a bright idea to teach the principles of bonding ( one over two, two over one) with plastic bottles of Preen Garden Weed PreventerHe sold quite a few bottles to the students.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Rock-Tree

A tree is almost as patient as a rock  It stays put in one place its entire existence, unless of course it is dug up and moved. Like a stone, it has the ability to just wait in one spot, motionless, for a very long time. Apart from a stone or a rock, there is nothing slower than a tree. 

There is a wisdom that comes with 'slowness' – with not rushing. There is a special consciousness that comes with standing still. It is not hard to imagine then that there are important things that can be learned from a tree, or a rock, that sits in one place day after day watching the rest of the world go by. Perhaps there is even more to be learned from a 'rock-tree' – a tree made from rocks. 

A kind of tree than doesn't die, or rot, or get diseased, made of rocks arranged to appear to be something living, growing, stretching up to the sky. 

An iconic structure, merging two different states of naturally occurring material. A tone poem, a silent prayer, a visualized meditation. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stalking stone structures

When David and Jane Wilson visited us here in Canada this summer on their whirlwind tour of North American stonework, (funded by a Churchill Memorial trust award ) I got to show them some of the dry stone installations in the Port Hope area.

It was a bit like a treasure hunt, as some of the work I had not seen for several years and several pieces were a bit over grown.

We crept up on the rubble helix looking rather splendid and almost ancient in its isolated pastoral setting.


The rising dry stone structure looked to be fully in tact, despite its unusual shape and how it was designed to stay together. The remote placement of this piece in the landscape definitely adds to the mystery of how and why it came to be.  


Later we visited the vaulted hut just outside Cobourg, another beautiful setting for such an unusual stone dwelling.

Then on the same property we looked at our terraced gardens created two summers ago. I was glad to see that the many many tons of stone that it took to build didn't cause it to seem over done or too over-burdened with stone. The garden felt airy and yet had a calm energy about it. 

It's all made with newly quarried limestone and the plantings are all very recent, so it will be really interesting to visit here again when everything has matured.

The Salem Creek bridge was a perfect place to rest and take some posed photos. This bridge was not more than a month old when David and Jane got to see it.

Finally, a stop a George and Reggie's for a look at the wall there we've been building as a part of a continuing yearly springtime workshop.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Framing Andy

We saw this Andy Goldsworthy installation a while ago when we were in the Lake District in England. I was reminded of how dry stone enclosures can frame things (like this boulder) and make them more interesting. 

A computer screen does a similar kind of thing. 

If you click on the frame below, you can watch a talk Andy gave about the difference between his permanent installations built in galleries and the impermanence of the work he creates outdoors, and also the use of colour in his work.

It is interesting to hear how a waller (dyker) in the Q&A at the end of the talk 'frames' the question to Andy about his employing wallers better than himself to execute some of his larger dry stone pieces.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Scale is everything

This bridge was built on Inisheer in two hours and has an eight inch span.

This bridge was built in Ontario in two weeks and has an eight foot span.

So what do you think the span of this bridge is ?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

By the Light of the Moongate

Sometimes I arrive too soon
The light falls harsh on that moongate ruin 
Sometimes I get there far too late
The light waxes old on my new moon gate 

But once I took a photograph 
In the fleeting light, where I'd crossed her path 
Of a seated girl all dressed in white 
Poised and draped in late dusk-light

And standing up she spread her hands
As if to greet a great expanse 
I caught that glimpse of love immortal 
As luminescence filled that portal 

I didn't think to ask her name 
We parted ways, the daylight waned  
But what remained within my phone 
Would light the path on my way home.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Scoop on this Thanksgiving Workshop

We needed the excavator with the scoop attachment to lift the heavy ice-cream boulders on to the workshop wall that we built in Brockport over the Canada Thanksgiving weekend.

The ice-cream wall, with tasteful vertical coning, came in many flavours including maple wall nut and rocky road. 

It seemed appropriate for the students, at the end of two days of hot fall weather, to all lean on the dry stone counter together and enjoy some delicious ice cream, to cool off and celebrate our fifty feet of creative walling. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Instead of mortar?

This 100 year old, 8 foot tall, dry stone retaining wall near Wilkes Barre, PA that Mary and I discovered while on our way to Washington DC, incorporated thousands of small thin shims to level the different thicknesses of sandstone blocks, as well as bed the stones together in a fairly successful, attractive looking, 'mortarless' structure.

The wall breathes, lets dampness through and hold back thousands of tons of rubble and stays together, and still looks pretty good after so many years. A concrete or cement structure would have 'given up' years ago.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thinking with tiny hands

While proper dry stone walling as a craft is catching on all across Canada these days, (as seen by the increasing number of comprehensive training courses being offered each year) it is a bit surprising that more younger wallers are not emerging from the ranks. Perhaps we need to start earlier.

The kids I worked with at the children's event during the Barriefield Festival last weekend in Kingston Ontario seemed more than content to be putting 'stone on stone'. They enjoyed exploring the many ways stones fit together and probably discovered the same pleasures of hands-on physics with all its nuances and possibilities , that full-scale dry stone walling has, only in this case, in miniature form.  

The miniature people I brought along for the event added a magical scale to the creations the children built.

This lady is contemplating picking up this huge chunk of limestone. I hope she doesn't hurt her back.

Doctor Who and his assistant helped the big kids with the building of a tiny dry stone bridge at the base of historic St Mark's Church.

Lots of grownups watched too as a tiny village of houses and walls and towers were made over the duration of the festival weekend 

While the thing about miniature walling is that you're far less likely to pinch your fingers, professional full-scale waller Dan Pearl, while building this mini Irish wall, seems to have somehow injured himself again. You're just not thinking with your hands, Dan.

Maybe he should let the tinier hands do it.

I watched Catherine build this wonderful cone-roofed tower all on her own.

These little guys built things with wooden blocks and discovered a lot about how things stay together without glue or interlocking snap-together plastic blocks like Lego and Duple. Instead of working to some 'standardized' design, their imaginations were unleashed. 

Of course their is always someone, no matter how small, who needs to use tools to make stones smaller. Sheldon was there working with us for a while, but then had to go and help all the bigger folks rebuilding the walls at the entrance to St Mark's.

My grown-up assistants at this year's children event were saints too. St. Diane and St. Mark together built this wonderful miniature reproduction of the church.