Saturday, September 29, 2018

Tiny Bridges

I will be building tiny miniature stone bridges with the kids today Saturday September 29 at the Amherst Island Dry Stone Festival this weekend in Ontario Canada. ( The adults who are attending the festival will just be building big old dry stone walls )

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dry Laid For Now

Have you ever thought that maybe most of what's going on here is just some kind of cosmic 'dry' run?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Stone Travel

Life is a journey.

We assume it has a destination, but maybe, as James Taylor sings, sometimes, 'it's enough to be on your way' 

I'm 'on my way' back from Utah, having spent four days ( without wifi or any contact with the outside world) on a beautiful property in a remote part near the head water of the south fork of the chalk river. It's an hour by paved road and twenty five minutes gravel track journey into a rocky landscape I have never seen before. We journeyed up into a scenic, desert-dry, wilderness with lush aspens and spruce. The journey wasn't over yet even at an elevation of 7500 feet. 

My naturalist friend who inherited these acres of mountain landscape from his ancestors who journeyed  to the Salt Lake area many years ago, invited me to come help him start a kind of long anticipated walling 'journey' of his own, where he might leave a testament to his love of this rocky landscape and his quest to put meaning and order to a small part of it, by building a wall.

He and I enjoyed our time together putting stone on stone, and as I speed home, flying over the brown desert landscape, I think about how 'travelling and walling' have  become a kind of continuing destination for me. I am privileged to have had so many opportunities to travel and see such interesting places along the way, along with, of course, making walls often with other fellow sojourning stone-journeying enthusiasts along the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rock and Rail Music

Just let me see some of those ‘rock and rail’ wall pics
Posts stuck in the earth,  with stones ‘fixed’
It’s got a great look, you can't beat-it
Here is one we’ve just completed
It's kinda like a rock & rail ‘combo’
If youre using stones and trees,
When youre building walls like these.

I've got no kick against modern tools
Unless they try to build them and they break the rules
And lose the beauty of the harmony
With mortared rocks- I simply can’t agree

That's why I go for those rock and rail dry walls
Especially curvy when they’re built tall
Its got a cool look, you can't fake it
Any old time you make it.
You gotta make rock and rail music
If you want your fence to sing
If you wanna see it sing

I took some photos across the posts
Showing railings way more sturdy than most
I must admit they stand up to wind and rain
Man, they could probly take a hurricane 

That's why I go for that ‘rock and rail’ fence style
I guess It makes it more tensile 
If you do landscapes, you should try it
Just one time for a client
It's gotta be ‘rock and rail’- choose it,
If you wanna do the job 
Using only rails on top.

Way out East I saw a big rock fence
And though some stones were immense   
There still were gaps where sheep got through
There were no posts there to fix rails to

Thats why I like ‘rock and rail’ walling
Nothing gets through crawling.
It's got a high rack, you can't scale it
Any old time you nail it

It's gotta be rock and rail fencing
If you wanna wall in things
If you’re setting fence posts in

Don't care to hear 'em talking ‘barbed wire’
Or using chain link startin’ higher
Thats way too ugly for enclosures
And sheep can’t stand that much exposure

That's why I go for that ‘rock and rail’ concept
Any other way seems inept.
It's got the rest beat, that’s the skilled bit
Any old time you build it.

It's gotta be ‘rock and rail’ dry stacked
That is what I wanna see
That is what I wanna see.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Eighteen people high and dry in Pontypool

This recent photo of the bridge we built in Pontypool Ontario back in July was taken by Carl Vyfschaft

Pontypool? Isn’t that a strange word.

Fr. pont= En.  Bridge > Fr. poule =En. Hen

Hen bridge ?

Chicken bridge

Afraid bridge

Fear bridge

Panic bridge

Bridge over uneasiness 

Bridge over trouble

Bridge to safety 

Escape bridge

Freedom bridge

Free stone bridge

Free standing bridge

Dry laid bridge

Dry bridge

High and dry bridge

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hands-on 'Thinking' with Stones

It's not so much a definitive statement as a kind of inclusion. Thinking with my hands does not mean it's done without my head. The more I hold stones (large or small) I just find it hard to think without using my hands as well. To not hold them is to lose an important cognitive factor. Consciousness of the potential within stone and the awareness of what is waiting to be done with, or understood about 'stones', is just made more possible through holding them and playing with them. These are after all, the precursor to LEGO, and the forerunners of clay bricks, cement blocks, steel beams, all sorts plastic building material and various substances being used now in 3D printing processes. Each new non-stone material ends up being less handled than the previous, and leaves us more and more removed from having a creative one-on-one experience . 

Stones have been around along time before men invented language, before the advent of books, television, computers. They helped us learn to think before we learned why we needed to think, to create before we knew why. We still don't know why, but Im guessing that our collective hands-on experience with stones over the eons of primitive generations surpasses any other knowledge we have attained, even if it's only carried subconsciously in our genetic makeup. It does our head good once in a while to recognize and respect (and look for) the wisdom that comes directly through our hands, by way of stones. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Time Arches

We keep building them because, Canada can always use more dry stone ruins. Time arches on... this is a folly 'ruin' at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific in BC. It has been ten years since I ran this workshop.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

It takes a village...

It takes a village to build a bridge. One of the hardest working villagers here at the Saanich bridge was our wonderful chef, Chelsea Davidson. It was her early nourishing breakfasts and amazing lunches that kept us going through the eight days of bridge construction.

 I can't help but think that the success and amount of detailed care and structural aesthetic put into our bridge was in direct proportion to the skill and energy Chelsea put into the delicious things she prepared for those who attended this workshop. As a result we thought it only fitting that we got her to pose for her photo to be taken at the bridge,as she brought some very important ingredients to it.

In response to our request to join us, here's Chelsea carefully  placing one of the sandstone voussoirs in the vault, as a kind of delicious ceremonial bridge filling.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Visiting one of my students the day after the bridge workshop

How can you sit on your patio and just relax, after having just taken a dry stone bridge workshop, when that pile of sandstone along the back of your property is beckoning you even more now, to get building a wall or bridge or something ?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Young children on an even younger bridge

Silently arching up off the sides of the steep banks of the park ravine, and leaping magically over the space between, local stones that for thousands of years lay unnoticed in the earth, now support passers by (and children like these two who have come by to sit a while) on this our newly built dry stone bridge, spanning Dominion Brook Park brook in North Saanich on Vancouver Island.
The path is now connected, from one side to another. And as we stand back, and contemplate the bigger picture, it seems that this our most recent project is just a delightful continuation of that path we've taken in the way of demonstrating the art of dry stone 'bridging' across this our great Dominion of Canada 🇨🇦 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Perfect Marriage

Our bridge dedication ceremony yesterday at Dominion Brook Park seemed a bit like a wedding . The sixty or seventy guests who had gathered under the cathedral-like canopy of Douglas Fir trees for the 2 o'clock ceremony were directed to one side or the other of the ravine to watch the proceedings. We might well have asked " Friends of the brook or friends of the bridge?" The brook in this case was the waiting groom- waiting for the new bride's 'veil' ( the centering support ) to be removed from the bridge.  (Bride is 'bridge' without the 'g')

I thought about how the two landscape 'features' had now joined to have a beautiful life together. The happy union of brook and bridge would go on to be a blessing to all those who came along their path.
It's interesting that the wedded  couple are in a relationship where neither one is there to be an obstruction to the other.
Both allow for, and respect, the other's 'flow'.
Both have the freedom to go in a direction that maintains natures harmony and compliments the other.
The meeting of the two is a place of blessing because it is crossing over, a spanning of differences as well as a meeting of the elements. Stone and Water.
It will be a place where new and wonderful things will be conceived. 

A place where dreams come true - a marriage of human skill and natural design which will have hopefully come together to bring out the child in all of us. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

So far so good

We seemed to have done the impossible . Seven days ago there was just a hole here where needed to be a bridge. We agreed to do it. We jokingly said 'what could possibly go wrong'. 
Lots did. But things went very right too. Our bridge became a symbol of cooperation.  Instead of letting individual walls be put up against the pressure of having to  get this challenging project done, we worked together to span it. It began by building from both sides and somewhere and somehow we met in the middle. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

A good helping of river rocks.

After the first and second course of the workshop , and the meat of the bridge has been thoroughly prepared and and all the students have partaken, there is always the tasty last course . In this case it is 'bridge cobbler' for dessert, bedded in a crunchy aggregate. Sweet.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Bridging across the extrados-sphere.

Five days into the workshop both extrados have been completed. This constitutes an Extraordinary effort by all the Dominion Brook Park bridge participants. The barrel vault is structural enough to take out the wooden centering now but we are waiting until Saturday at 2pm when we will remove it during the bridge dedication ceremonies here in Saanich.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Bridge Labourers

We didn't take the day off. We laboured all Labour Day on the bridge. Dry stone 'work' is more fun than not working.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Can you imagine ?

Foundation prep work nearly completed. All ready to begin the Dominion Brook Bridge Building Workshop. Hope to see a finished bridge here by next week. Can you imagine it?