Ten women convened at the Stone Trust for a 1-Day Women’s Intro to Dry Stone Walling workshop on Saturday November 4. Among the group were two landscape designers currently studying at the School of Professional Horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. They are looking to expand their horizons by learning more about stonework. One participant (in her 80s!) had been given the workshop as a gift, and two friends from Nova Scotia surprised her by also enrolling in the workshop. Most participants enrolled to satisfy curiosity about stone walls, repair walls on their property, or both. Despite the autumn chill and gray skies, everyone arrived in good spirits and eager to learn.
Instructors Judy Rand and Victoria Merriman led the group for the day. As is Judy’s tradition, we kicked off with a round of stretching to warm everybody up, then got to work stripping out the wall and organizing our stone.
Several brave participants helped set up batter frames, taking turns with our rebar pounder thingy—we believe that is the technical term. Then we began building our foundation, using the largest stones first, running them lengthwise into the wall, leveling the tops, and making sure they made good contact with their neighbors.
After learning the five principles of dry stone walling, our group worked at a steady pace and had three solid courses built by lunchtime. The farm store was open at the Scott Farm, so many of us enjoyed hot apple cider and other treats, as well as fiddlers playing lively music. Then it was back to our wall.
Victoria demonstrated how to get even the heaviest throughstones onto the wall by oneself if working solo, and many women were surprised to try it and discover that it’s not as hard as they expected. Somewhere during the course of building our second lift, someone thought it would be funny to hide something inside the wall for the next day’s workshop to find. We joked about messages in bottles, Halloween candy, and the like, until one participant had a stroke of inspiration, ran to her car, and came back with a secret object which was snuck into the wall.
Finally we moved the stringlines a final time to the top of the wall and everyone kept diligently building. We worked together to get heavy cover bands and copes back onto the wall to finish it off. Finally, we experienced the satisfaction of our completed wall, admired our work, and took some group photos.
But, you may be asking… what did we place inside the wall? You’ll have to read our next blog post to find out…