Temperatures in the 20’s F, steady 10 mph winds gusting to 25. Stones fastening themselves to the surface of the ground with frost. Time to close down walling activities for the year, right? Wrong. The wind chill was definitely bracing on the work-site hilltop this week but building went on apace. In fact, some things got easier as a result of the cold. No more wet gloves or bucket loader-eating mud holes. Underfoot turned to hard, no-slip surfaces, bringing welcome stability for plucking and plopping stone.
Now that I can step back and examine broad areas of completed stonework, I see a graphic pattern has emerged from the building method employed. The most helpful descriptor I can think of to categorize this working method is “wedgie”. The aim for setting a stone is to have it press on one and lean against two others. In this way, the weight of every stone traps three others into the construction. Additionally, the stone’s weight is pitching toward the center of the wall. In effect, it’s always and forever trying to fall into, and not out of, the wall. Unlike horizontally coursed dry stone construction where the goal is to level the top of every stone, here, every stone peaks to a point, creating sawtoothed courses. The sawtooth valleys become receptacles for succeeding stones to slide down into.
Now that the 3’ wide “through” stones have been set with the loader and chain, it’s back to hand building to fill the gaps between them. The throughs tie the two faces and hearting of the lower wall together and create a broad, solid back to shoulder the upper half of the construction to come.
The pair of eagles that hunted the clearings from the limb of an oak tree limb nearby have left for warmer climes but the wild turkeys are still scratching out a living, providing some comic relief to my day. And I for them, no doubt. Suited up for winter work, I wear: long johns, double socks, shirt, sweater, insulated boots, windproof bib overalls, hooded windbreaker and ski goggles.