Mt. Monadnock, NH
art, stone, stoneworks
Thanks for your inquiry!If you are interested in a copy of the DVD Stone Rising, please contact Camilla Rockwell directly.You may also want to contact the Dry Stone Walling Association regarding instructional media materials. Links to both can be found on the front page of my blog.Best wishes,Dan
Hello,I heard that you had a DVD about dry stone walling. I was wondering whether it is available for purchase?
So nice to hear from you, and learn there’s a bit of New England coming to your backyard. It’s often the case that our immediate environs are unnoticed until we leave them behind. In memory they become even more alive.
Please convey my thanks to Jan Sedrel for passing along my book to you, and for being a fellow practitioner in dry stone construction.
Dear Mr. Snow,We are having a stone retaining wasll built in our very small backyard here in Orinda, CA., a suburb of San Francisco. Our stoneman, or “waller”, Jan Sedrel, lent me your book, “In the Company of Stone”, probably to help me appreciate the knowledge and artistry that it takes to build a wall.I leafed through the pictures and then began to read the text, and what a treat that was! Your book shows that you are not only a master craftsman, but a very good writer. Your sentiments seemed almost spiritual.We’re here in Northern California; but I am at heart a New Englander. I spent my childhood in Revere, a beach town; but I remember the summer vacations in New Hampshire when I’d walk for miles to the country store. Stone walls were everywhere. I never thought much about them, but remember that they were there.After I was married we lived in many parts of the United States. For several years we were given an assignment in Boston. We bought five acres in Sudbury, Massachusetts where we built our farmhouse reproduction. Our property was surrounded by stone walls probably built by some farmer who cleared the land for his corn field. There were only five homes in our little area,all reproductions, one that was almost identical to the depiction in your book on page 44-45. All the properties were surrounded by pre-existing stone walls. We felt we were a little Vermont Village, especially when the snow began to fall agaist the rocks.As I mentioned before, we’ve lived in many parts of the country; but have decided to retire out here because our three sons and their families are here. It wasn’t ustil we needed a retaining wasll and the stone began being piled up that I realized that I have never gotten New England out of my soul.Thank you again for helping me appreciate the art and beauty of my stone wall.Sincerely,Joan Patti
You’re brave to tackle a project like the one you describe, but you’ve clearly done your homework and the workshop has given you a good understanding of the basic techniques of walling and how to employ them, so I think you will do well.
Working on a slope is the complicating factor. I’m assuming you intend to dig out the areas to be rebuilt by hand. If you pile the soil on the slope below the line of the footing it can act as a temporary platform to stand on for working. By digging out an area and then pulling stone from the adjacent existing wall section to rebuild there you reduce the amount of stone shifting and storing you need to do. Rebuild one 4′ long section at a time. Since dry stone walls are porous, allowing water to move freely through them, I don’t see how a drain pipe would be useful or necessary.
I don’t imagine you will do much harm to mature oak trees if you have to chop away some roots to make room for building. If there are roots larger than 4″ in diameter you could try leaving them and building around them.
Good luck! I’m sure it will be a beautiful setting when you’re finished.
Hi Dan Snow,
I am hoping you can give me some advice for a project at my house. I have become very interested in dry stone wall building – done a lot of internet research and recently attended a workshop at Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, MA conducted by Jim Baker. My house in Boston sits on top of a slope (at least 30 feet wide) retained at the bottom by a stone & mortar wall (about 3 feet high) and up the slope by a series of deteriorating dry stone “walls”. The largest wall is about 3 feet high and four or five feet long and set in a corner between two large oaks. It is made mostly of granite blocks (cobblestones?) but also has broken concrete, fieldstone, and a couple of bricks thrown in. There is a smaller retaining wall on the side of the slope, also set between trees, made of broken concrete. There also is a short retaining wall (just a couple of courses) that runs along the top of the slope and what may be another short wall that runs mid-slope. The mid-slope wall also could be a series of stones set to retain individual bushes. It is hard to tell because the stones have moved in the freeze-thaw cycle and soil has built up on the slope over the years. I am a gardener and have started to plant perennials on the slope; I have dug out several large buried stones doing this. The slope is very shady with the two large oaks and several evergreens of various sizes. I want to rebuild the stone walls, starting with the largest retaining wall. From what I have learned, I understand that I have to back-fill the wall with stone and probably lay pipe for drainage. My major concern is not damaging the trees when digging the footings and rebuilding. I am inclined to just jump in and start, using the technigues I have learned: using a batter, digging deep footings, laying footing stones, using rubble to strengthen the footings and in the center, working from the corners to the center, stone-weaving (one over two to avoid running seams), chinking in/out, locking the stones, etc. My partner is nervous that we will run into problems we can’t handle on our own. I do anticipate that the work needs to be done in phases, one area at a time. I also think it will take me at least several days to complete each section, from demo to digging to building. I’d like to tackle the worst deterioration first, which is the retaining wall between the oaks, but have read that I should start at the bottom. Is that always true? Any advice or suggestions you have would be most appreciated. I do have the book, Building Stone Walls by John Vivian. I would like to try to do the work myself, perhaps helped by a couple of friends. I have no idea if you travel to Boston to do this kind of work, and, if so, what that would cost and how long it would take. If you’re interested, I’d be glad to send you photos. I realize this is a very long post. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
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"The prose weaves between practical and poetic with the same gentle twists as an old field wall, inspiration to armchair waller and budding artisan alike." - Washington Post
"What a pleasure to have the tales of these new wonders told, and in such lovely prose." - Bill McKibben