Workshop day dawned chill and windy. Seventeen people, fourteen participants and three teachers gathered around two double-face freestanding dry stone walls. Each person may have felt eager to feel the warmth that comes from a working body. But you have to know what you’re doing before you start working.
How are these walls built? Why do the faces angle inwards slightly? What are the long rocks at knee level and about two feet higher for? What are they called? How about those stones set like books on a shelf? What is the anatomy and physiology of a wall? What is the vocabulary that wallers use?
Instructors Pete Ryder, Rob Faraone, and Curtis Gray gave answers to those questions and then taught the group of men and a boy how to “strip out” a wall. In an Introduction to Dry Stone Walling workshop, you disassemble and reassemble an existing wall, so you can see how it is built and build it.
Two of the participants worked on a more advanced, fundamental walling skill. They came to Broad View Farm in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire for a Cheek Rebuild workshop, to learn how to build a vertical wall end, a.k.a cheekend. Cheekends take a lot of practice. To build a wall end that will stand the test of time, one that ties into the wall it supports, requires a significantly higher level of know-how that only comes with practice. All instructors have built many, many cheekends. They had to build at least ten to pass the Dry Stone Walling Association Level 2 Professional Certification Test, which you have to accomplish before you can become certified to teach for the DSWA or the Stone Trust.
So who was present on these two early spring days? Participants’ experience ranged from novice to professional. Some had stacked a few rocks, others have worked in landscaping for twenty and thirty years, building and rebuilding dry stone walls. Some have built houses, patios, walkways. One is a stone mason who hasn’t yet worked with dry stone walls. One is an architect and musician, another an Eagle Scout. Some want to repair historic walls on their own property. One wants to build a stone bridge into an ecosystem as a gift to his town.
People come to Stone Trust workshops for reasons similar and disparate. In general, you report having learned what you came for and having had a good time. Our instructors had a great time, too! Thanks to all of you for carrying on the tradition of building dry stone walls. Come back again!