Saturday, November 18, 2017

Beyond Classrooms

During our kids walling event held during the Dry Stone Canada Barriefield Festival last October, I was asked by one of the local teachers if I might like to participate later in a local  Beyond Classrooms  program and give a talk to children about dry stone walls. 

Last Thursday I was delighted to be able to spend time with two dozen grade 3 and 4 students at the Frontenac County Schools Museum in Barriefield exploring various creative activities involving designing and building arched bridges.

The link  below is to a short video clip of one of the highlights of that class. 

Beyond Classrooms Kingston moves teachers and their classrooms into community museums, art galleries and community sites for an entire week.  The host site becomes an extension of the teacher’s classroom, where he or she can help students enhance their literacy, critical thinking and problem solving skills, in an authentic environment.

Working alongside host site staff and the BCK Coordinator, each teacher designs a unique program that uses the students’ week at the site, as a catalyst for inquiry-based learning.

Learning at a museum or gallery for an entire week takes away the field trip feeling and creates an environment where students can slow down their learning, look closely and reflect, through sketching and journal writing.

Presentations by specialists, hands-on activities, time spent exploring the collections – all stimulate curiosity, and encourage further investigation.  Frequent opportunities for reflection and discussion heighten student discovery and play a significant role in helping to foster cultural awareness, civic pride, community responsibility, and stewardship.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A good Impersonation

Paraic usually builds walls like this on his farm on Inis Oirr

It's good to see our Irish dry stone waller visitor is having no trouble building in a style different from what he’s used to. Providing he's got the appropriate stone, good experienced waller, like a good impersonator, should be able, after some practice, to do a reliably accurate version of any type of wall he has been asked to reproduce.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What to make of it.

We have Paraic Pol with us this week at our latest project in Rockport Ontario. Here he was yesterday, happily picking limestone with Mark and I out of the quarry we go to near Madoc Ontario for a wall we are racing building this month before the weather closes in.  

He says he hasn't seen such a large amount of limestone material, or bedrock so close to the surface, since he left Inis Oirr. It will be interesting to see how different this flattish, more easily faced dolomite material is for Paraic work with.  Will it be more difficult or more easy?  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Aesthetic Procrastination

This circular double garden terrace project at the back of a modern new house was a big one. After a steady month of three of us working full days, the dry stone work on these terrace walls was completed about this time last year. 

The look of the soil coming almost to the tops of the copes gave the walls more of an aesthetic appeal than having them all sitting fully exposed, above the grade of the terraces.

When my client's wife visited last winter ( after we'd cleared off ) she told her husband she loved everything except the upright copes. 

Reluctantly I agreed last spring to take them off and replace the upright copes with flat ones.

I did say however that we were busy (which we were) and was able to stall as long as I could until late August when I decided to make the phone call to say we were now able to come and change up the copes.

My client answered, "After enjoying our walls during out visits to the site this summer, my wife has really grown to like the look of the top stones on the walls now. Actually I don't think we want to change anything, thank you John."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Still Standing and Always Remembering

Perhaps stones remember too. 

Maybe there is more to their enduring strength and hardness than we see. 

That we remember things, especially hard things from the past, and remain respectful and compassionate and still look to the good in everything, perhaps this is part of that same 'enduring' we see made manifest in stone.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Entrenched in History

Next to the The Canadian National Vimy Memorial monument at the Vimy Ridge a part of the old battlefield and trenches has been preserved. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial at the Vimy Ridge is Canada's most impressive tribute overseas to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives in the World War I. The memorial overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge. The monument holds the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were killed in France and whose final resting place is unknown. 

'Yorkshire Trench' was the name given to a front line position dug by units of the 49th (West Riding) Division near the Yser canal at Boesinghe in 1915/16. The Belgian archaeology group The Diggers worked on this site over many years and recovered much material and many human remains from the area. Their work was featured on The Forgotten Battlefield, a documentary made by BBC Producer John Hayes-Fisher. The publicity following this programme made the local authorities in the Ypres area keen on preserving some part of what The Diggers had uncovered, and in May 2003 the Yorkshire Trench & Dugout site was opened following much hard work on the part of the Diggers themselves.

Canadian soldiers in the trenches at Vimy Ridge in 1917 during the First World War.

Soldiers quietly wait in the sodden trenches of the Great War

Friday, November 10, 2017

Stone Hill Halloween Spectacle

Crowds, stone, fire, music, costumes, and a procession - elements that make a great spectacle combined to really make a spectacular occasion at Stone Hill Farm near Flint Hill, Virginia last October 28th. Here are just a few photos of some of the many people in costume who ended up exploring the amazing dry stone amphitheatre on the property . 

The City of Alexandria Pipes & Drums and the Gold Top Country Ramblers piped for the crowds as they assembled for the spectacle.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Gradual steps.

A friend of mine had been gradually collecting stone from his drives through the country for a stairway he eventually wanted to have built leading up to his deck.
He phoned me when he thought he'd collected enough. 
I said it probably was enough but that they were pretty challenging stones to make stairs with .

But anyway we did it.
We even had some left over. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What Now?

Ever wonder 'What now is it’ ? There are so many different kinds of 'nows'. 

There are the long ones that you get a lot done in. There are the nows that are gone in a flash – that whole day of walling, and you got nothing done. Where did the time go? 

It's like, "what now?" There just always seems to be something. If it isn’t too late, it’s way too early. If you get the wall built on time, the materials cost too much. If instead of time and materials, you charge by the job, you end up in a race against time. 

I try not to look at my watch. I try not to watch what time it looks like. The clock in my truck is still on daylight loosing time. (It’s bad on gas too) I can’t figure out how to reset it. I know it says in the manual somewhere how to change the clock, but I don’t have the time to look it up.  

Anyway I’ve got a lot of rocks to set. Forget clocks. It’s way more important not to forget when, where and how to set rocks. And that's pretty simple – they either go forward (on the wall) or they go back. When the time comes I usually know what to do with one when I pick it up. It’s called being 'in the know'. And being in the know is as close to being in the now as I get. 

Most rocks are timeless, which means they're neither new or old. They are neither late or early.

I’m usually on time, I hate being late, but I just read somewhere that people that are late for everything live longer and are generally happier, more spontaneous, more optimistic. Good for them. Anyway, if that IS the case, I hope to learn how to always be late, one day.

You would think working with rocks would slow me down, but they don't seem to. Even when I try to go slow, they just go slower. They're in a totally different time zone from the rest of us.  I work with them everyday, and I usually end up going faster and faster. It's like a slippery slope. 

Anyway, I think the ones I’m working with now must be on rocky mountain time. I gotta go. I’m late.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Memories of Mallorca

Hiking along the Ruta de Pedra en Sac in Mallorca is good fun. Even so, it can be exhausting as you climb up and up and then down and down, and you can get very thirsty, and yes, you sometimes get lost. 

But you do come across a lot of interesting people and tons and tons of amazing 'Mallorca style' dry stone retaining walls.

With iPad on my lap during the 8 hour flight home, I digitally painted an 'embellished' memory of that wonderful 8 hour hike we took from Deia up into the mountains. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

( Part 2 and 3 )

Above-below the din
A few quiet men
Observe the cells fragility

How Monday's child
Makes Tuesday's vegetable
And Wednesday's petrifies
The leaf to mineral
While Friday sparks the whole in fire
And Sunday's elements disperse
And rise in air.

The stone in my hand
IS my hand
And stamped with tracings of
A once green blooded frond,
Is here is gone, will come
Was fire, and green, and water,
Will be wind. 

From the Hangman Ties the Holly
By Anne Wilkinson

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A poem in three parts. (part 1)

Those behind
Those about me
Millions crowding to come after me
Look over my shoulder.

Together we consider
The merit of stone (I hold a stone in my hand for all to see)
A geologist tells the time it has endured
Endurance, a virtue in itself, we say
Makes its own monument .

We pause, resent
The little span
A miser's rule
Inched out for man

But blood consoles us
Can be squeezed from us
Not from stone.

Saying this fools no one
A sudden bluster of words
Claims for human seed
A special dispensation
Foxes and flowers and other worthies
All excluded.

Immediately sixteen creeds
Cry out to be defended –
A state of emergency exists ;

Flying buttresses
Revolving domes, a spire extended
By the spirit of
A new and startling growth of thorns

Skies in Asia catch
On uplifted wings of temples
In the Near East the talk is of stables.

Part one of 'A Poem In Three Parts' from the Hangman Ties the Holly
By Anne Wilkinson