Joanne and I were driving up to my parents on Saturday when she pointed out a tent, high up on a hill beside the highway. "I wonder what's going on up there?" she said. As we came by the base of the hill there was a sign: Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada. Well, I did what any self-respecting member of the Hunter family would do, I ditched Joanne and Gil at my parents and my father and I headed back to find out what was going on.
At the top of the hill we were warmly greeted by John, the leader of the seminar. Their goal was to build an arch from an old stone pile, and whatever other rocks they could gather from the pasture. The seminar was full but we were invited to stick around and observe, and if we had any questions, please feel free to ask.
John proved to be an excellent teacher and just watching, asking a few questions and taking it all in I learned more that afternoon than I have in all the various books I've read. I've been thinking of building the bottom 4' of the south wall of Gil's room from stone, and now I feel confident that I can get it done. Building a 12' x 4' x 18" wall would add 4400 pounds of thermal mass to the house, thermal mass that would receive heat from then sun, the new wood stove, and the radiant floor.
I was great to watch them build this because it was exactly the same kind of stone that we have here. The books tend to deal with nice easy to work with stones like sandstone, limestone, and shale. That's nice but what we have is fieldstone, granite and other difficult to split stones.
The finished the arch late in the afternoon and it's a fantastic sight. It looks like it's been there forever, I suspect a lot of locals will be doing a double take as they head up the highway wondering why they've never seen that before.