Thursday, May 31, 2018

What you don't see

You can just see small pink dots on the base stones marking the outside and inside of the five sided dry stone hut we are building at the Stein in's Wein festival in Austria this week. It's slow going and most of the work done by the wallers and students so far ( except for a few more shaped corners) will not be seen, since the foundation stones here are all still below grade . 
But, as in any serious dry stone construction or creative work, the hearting and the base is not what you actually see and yet it is often the most important and painstakingly slowest part of the job.

Monday, May 28, 2018

One more negative component of wind power.

I've been asked to give a quote on repairing this section of old dry stone wall on Amherst Island that was damaged by a truck carrying wind turbine component equipment.

Photo by Brian Little

Below is an excerpt from the blog
“All the rules are made to be broken,” said Dumbrille, “to benefit the wind power developer. And the public has no right to information, apparently.”
Janet Grace, past chair of the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI), described numerous violations of the Renewable Energy Approval, road use agreements, and provincial safety regulations by “Windlectric” a shell company developing a power project on the island for Algonquin Power. 
Roads are blocked without notice, and construction throughout the winter has virtually destroyed roads, so much so that the municipality Loyalist Township issued a stop work order. Resident photographs indicate however, that the order was ignored, with the power developer construction firm continuing work. In addition, Grace said, the company is supposed to stop work at 7 PM, but in reality is working until 11 PM.
“The sad thing is, Grace said, “we know this is just the beginning of what is being done to our Island. There are rules being broken, and violations … the MOECC gives them exemptions. They’re just getting away with it all.”

Many of the walls on the island are in danger of having similar damage done to them unless the trucks drive slower and follow the proper MOECC rules and regulations set in place to protect and respect the properties affected by the influx of trucks creating wind turbine construction upheaval.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Zen simplified.

“Zen pretty much comes down to three things -- everything is connected; everything changes; pay attention.”   Jane Hirshfield -poet.

In the picture above, all the stones in the wall are the same shade of grey (connected) even though the ones at the top look darker (changed) 

Did you notice? (pay attention) 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Off to Austria

I am very honoured to be one of the guest speakers invited by Helmut Schieder to attend this year's Stein and Wine dry stone and wine event starting May 30th, near the town of Langenlois in a part of Austria that is known for its vineyards and extensive wine production.

You can read more about the stone festival itself in a great blog post Sunny Wieler wrote describing the the 2015 event attended by a great bunch of rock stars including Patrick McAfee Sean Adcock and Nick Aitken, to name a few .

Last year Helmut organized the building of a small double arched bridge.

The year before, the participants constructed a Irish beehive hut.

This year we will be building a five-sided vaulted-roofed structure with stained glass window openings.

Friday, May 25, 2018

A recent Article in the Brockville paper.

Zen and the art of wall building 

By Marla Dowdall, Special to The Recorder and Times

ROCKPORT – When you look at a dry-stone wall, you can tell right away whether the builder was in a good mood, according to 'waller' John Shaw-Rimmington.

“You can look at a wall and instantly know if the guy was at peace with himself,” he said. Whether it was a good day or a good week this can come across in the wall itself.
Shaw-Rimmington offered his comment about zen and the art of wall-building during the annual Art Fair and Dry-Stone Wall event last weekend.
Having built walls from Spain to California, in the United States, Scotland and Ireland, Shaw-Rimmington, of Port Hope, said, “Walling is becoming more of a craft, an artistic craft.”
The six-foot-high wall students were learning about and would be working on, located on Front Street, was started in October. Students were hands-on for the workshop, which offered instruction on use of proper masonry tools and the basics of structural masonry without mortar. Only stone was used.
Shaw-Rimmington enjoyed an easy banter with the seven participating students, encouraging back and forth discussion as well as questions. Students came from as far as the Toronto and Ottawa areas to take part. And folks have come farther, he said. In one instance, a man came all the way from California to Canada to take one of his courses.
Shaw-Rimmington, the founder of Dry Stone Walling Across Canada, is also an author, a mason, contractor and artist.
Put on by Thousand Islands Arts, the dry-stone walling event was a new addition to this year’s Victoria Day weekend fair. 
With a theme of “celebrating contemporary and traditional heritage arts,” Miller said some of the mediums included were quilting, painting, knitting, silk screening and more.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Don't be wasteful.

People who have more than enough stone think I’m kind of strange. But the fact is - I don’t like to waste stones.
I remember days when it was hard to put a stone on the table.
When I was young where I lived there weren’t that many to go round.
It was a job, some days, just to find one.
Often,  me and my friends would come home empty-handed .
That’s why I try to make use of every stone I am given.
That’s why I make sure none go to waste.
All I have to do is think about people who are less fortunate than me, people who are without stones on their property, or can’t afford to buy them, or have no place they can go gather them, and then I look at the pile of stones I have and they don’t look so bad.
Who am I to say a stone is a bad stone? Who would have the gall to say a stone is useless? What makes a person so special that they think they can just throw stones away?

No, people should be glad for every stone God gives them. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Victoria Day Walling

Photo by Mark Ricard 

We had a royally good time yesterday at the 1000 Island Dry Stone Workshop at Rockport Ontario.

Students gathered early and learned the basic principals of how to wed stones to one another in order to build a strong princely wall, and then we all joined forces to add another 28 foot section of six foot high wall, to the existing 100 feet of wall, along the border of this lovely village property, just east of Gananoque. 

Having an example structure already on site makes it very convenient to point out all the features of a properly built dry laid wall. There's really no need for diagrams if you have the real thing there. The batter, the through stones, the bonding, and cheek-ends are all visible. The only thing students are not able to inspect is the 'hearting'. Ironically, how the stones are placed in the wall, is often crucial to whether the wall stands against the attacks of time and weather.

By mid-morning a steady barrage of rain fell on the troops, but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm. We remained victoriously DRY stone wallers.

Reining day people. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Turning CO2 to Stone

Geothermal energy generation at Hellisheidi
Image captionHarnessing the power of the volcanoes: Hellisheidi is Iceland's largest geothermal plant
Nested in the snow-covered mountains of western Iceland, a maze of turbines and pipes belches thick billows of steam. This mammoth structure is responsible for providing power to a country where 100% of the electricity comes from renewable sources.
The Hellisheidi power station, 25km (15 miles) outside Reykjavik, is Iceland's main geothermal plant, and is one of the largest in the world.
"Do you feel the vibrations beneath us?", says Edda Sif Aradottir, the plant's manager, splashing snow as she stomps her boot on the ground. "It's the steam coming into the turbines". 
Image copyrightA SAEBERGHellisheidi power plant, air view
"This is a volcanic area. We harness the volcano's internal heat to generate electricity and provide hot water for the city's heating system, our swimming pools and showers. We Icelanders like our showers really hot!"
Hellisheidi is not just an accomplished provider of green energy. It is also the site for a scientific breakthrough; an experiment to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) and turn it into stone - forever.
Thus keeping this greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere and putting a dent in global warming.
"Mankind has been burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution and we have already reached the tipping point for CO2 levels", says Dr Aradottir. "This is one of the solutions that can be applied to reverse that".
Called CarbFix, the project is pioneered by an international consortium led by Reykjavík Energy, the French National Centre for Scientific Research, the University of Iceland and Columbia University.
Hellisheidi plant, pipe system
Image captionIn November Hellisheidi hit a major milestone, it hosted the world's first "negative emission" system, capable of sucking CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it underground
Since experiments began in 2014, it's been scaled up from a pilot project to a permanent solution, cleaning up a third of the plant's carbon emissions.
"More importantly, we are a testing ground for a method that can be applied elsewhere, be that a power plant, heavy industries or any other CO2 emitting source", says Dr Aradottir.

Making soda

With rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2, scientists have been testing "carbon capture and storage" (CCS) solutions since the 1970s.
CarbFix, however, stands out among CCS experiments because the capture of carbon is said to be permanent - and fast. 
Mineralisation process, infographic
Image captionWaste CO2 from the steam (I) goes to the gas separation station (II) is diluted in water (III) piped to the injection site (IIII) and pumped underground where it mineralises into rock
The process starts with the capture of waste CO2 from the steam, which is then dissolved into large volumes of water.
"We use a giant soda-machine", says Dr Aradottir as she points to the gas separation station, an industrial shed that stands behind the roaring turbines.
"Essentially, what happens here is similar to the process in your kitchen, when you are making yourself some sparkling water: we add fizz to the water".
Injection site in the form of an igloo, covered in snow
Image captionIn the injection site, the CO2 is pumped underground at high pressure
The fizzy liquid is then piped to the injection site - otherworldly, geometric igloo-shaped structure 2km away. There it is pumped 1,000m (3,200ft) beneath the surface.
In a matter of months, chemical reactions will solidify the CO2 into rock - thus preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere for millions of years.
Mineralisation process, infographic
Image captionUnderground, the CO2 solution comes into contact with basalt and turns into white, chalky calcites that fill the pores of the rock
Basaltic rocks: fresh and with pores on the left, with white carbonates on the right
Image captionBefore and after: porous basalt (left) and basalt with mineralised CO2 within its pores
In this seemingly magic feat, local geology plays a key part.

Porous rock

The breath-taking Icelandic landscape - with its hot springs, geysers and black beaches - is mainly made of basalt, a dark-grey porous rock formed from cooling of lava.
And basalt is "carbon's best friend", because it contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium and iron, which bind with the pumped CO2 to help it solidify into a mineral.
Image copyrightS GISLASONGas separation station or "soda machine" used in CarbFix
Image captionThe CO2 is mixed with water, which has proven key to speeding up the solidification
Image copyrightS GISLASONScientists in the igloo-shaped injection site
Image captionThe injection site is in the vicinity of the mammoth geothermal plant
Sandra Snaebjornsdottir, a geologist working for CarbFix, has the evidence in her hands: a cylindrical sample drilled out from the site shows a smattering of chalky crystals encrusted in the basalt.
"These white bits are carbonates, or mineralised CO2", she says. "Fresh basalts are like sponges, with plenty of cavities that are filled with the CO2.
"Iceland is particularly favourable for this type of CCS simply because of the amount of basalt it's got".
Last year, 10,000 tonnes of CO2 were "digested" by CarbFix.
Yet this is tiny fraction - less than the yearly emissions of 650 Brits or 2,200 American cars.
Rock samples being dug out to examine
Image captionAfter the first pilot, samples of rock were drilled out from the bedrock to check whether the CO2 had solidified
And it becomes even more insignificant against the 30-40 gigatonnes of CO2 (a gigatonne is a billion tonnes) that modern humans pour into the atmosphere annually.
Despite its relatively small scale, experts anticipate CarbFix could be easy to repeat - thanks to the ubiquity of basalt around the world.
"Basalt is actually the most common rock type on Earth, it covers most of the oceanic floors and around 10% of the continents. Wherever there's basalt and water, this model would work", says Sandra Snaebjornsdottir.
Large basaltic areas are found in Siberia, Western India, Saudi Arabia and the Pacific Northwest. 
And scientists are now looking at testing the model on the oceans to take advantage of the large areas of submarine basalt formations.
Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir, geologist in CarbFix
Image captionSandra Snaebjornsdottir is in charge of testing results in CarbFix
Potentially, basalt could solve all the world's CO2 problems says Sandra: "The storage capacity is such that, in theory, basalts could permanently hold the entire bulk of CO2 emissions derived from burning all fossil fuel on Earth."

Very thirsty

At the University of Iceland, research around CarbFix has been continuing since its pilot phase.
A desk-size replica of the pipes and pumps in Hellisheidi in a state-of-the-art lab allows Prof Sigurdur Gislason to scrutinize the process.
"Before the injection started in CarbFix, the consensus within the scientific community was that it would take decades to thousands of years for the injected CO2 to mineralise", says Prof Gislason explains.
"Then we found out that it was already mineralised after 400 days".
Reykjavik aerial view
Image captionIceland's capital Reykjavik runs on renewable energies, and is one of the greenest cities in the world
Reactions were a lot faster than anticipated partly because of the large amounts of water used to dissolve the CO2.
This however points to one of the project's Achilles heels - it is very water intensive.
"It needs over 25 tonnes of water per tonne of CO2," says Prof Gislason. "In Iceland we are blessed with lots of rain, but if you are doing this on the basaltic areas in India... their water is very precious".
Some critics warn high-tech fixes such as this one pose a bigger risk - that of distracting researchers and the public from the pressing need drastically to reduce greenhouse gases levels. 
In a recent report, the European Academies Science Advisory Council warned that such technologies have "limited realistic potential" if emissions are not reduced.
"CarbFix is not a silver bullet. We have to cut emissions and develop renewable energies, and we have to do CCS too," says Prof Gislason. 
We have to change the way we live, which has proved very hard for people to understand."
Part of our series Taking the Temperature , which focuses on the battle against climate change and the people and ideas making a difference.
This BBC series was produced with funding from the Skoll Foundation
Illustrations by Jilla Dastmalchi

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A permanent bridge, without using concrete

A dry stone arched bridge course will be held Monday July 9th to Saturday July 14 on the site of this beautiful Southern Ontario property. That's right,no mortar,concrete,metal or wood. 

 It will be taught by me and another instructor. Participants will get a unique experience having a full 'hands-on' experience learning to build a traditional Scottish ‘packhorse' bridge with cobbled walking surface. 
The course fee is 200 dollars a day and has been deliberately set low to encourage stone enthusiasts, with or without experience, not just professionals. In addition to students having the standard instructional printed material provided for this DSWAC course, registrants attending the  Pontypool  Mitchell’s Bridge Workshop will get a copy of my recently published book How To Build Dry Stacked Walls and Bridges. If time permits during the build there will be a field trip to visit at least one other dry stone bridge in neighbouring Northumberland County . Lunches will be provided.
All inquiries about attending this course should be directed to or john@dswac,ca  This course is limited to 6 students and is nearly filled .