How to Build a Stone Wall

The end of the final day of the workshop. Phew!

The end of the final day of the workshop. Phew!

If you live in a place where there are a lot of stone walls you’ve probably admired them. Dry stone walls are timeless, classic, and stand as testimonies to historic and cultural traditions that have been usurped by strip malls and housing developments that hollow us of a sense of place and belonging.   Perhaps you’ve thought about having some built on your property, or, if you have stone at your place, you’ve thought of building some yourself. If you’d like to know more about the history ,the dynamics and details of constructing dry stone walls, that is, walls without mortar, you couldn’t do better than to sign on for a workshop with Andrew Pighills.

Andrew will be teaching a week-end long, dry stone wall building workshop on Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th at Stonewell Farm in Killingworth, Connecticut. For more information please contact me at: mb@mbeckerco.com and I will send you registration materials.

You Need a Garden Journal.

My preferred garden journal.

My preferred garden journal.

Anyone with a garden needs a garden journal. Why? Indulge me while I enumerate a few examples, in a Q & A format, of cocktail hour, garden observations that pose questions and present critical-ish thinking.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Hmm. I thought I’d put some peonies here but all I see is a huge catmint. How Odd.
  2. Geez, where did all these ugly orange daylilies come from?
  3. Wow, that catmint is *&^% huge. I must remember to divide it next year.
  4. I think that’s a weed but I’ll wait till it flowers to be sure.
  5. How great! These annuals that I put into this empty spot are glorious! I must remember that this space is reserved for iris divisions in the spring.
  6. This iris really needs to be divided. I wonder what color it is.
  7. Oh. That poor rose is really struggling there, getting swamped by the……………….I must remember to move it in the fall.

Answers/Observations:

  1. You DID put some peonies there. Three of them, fragrant ones, special ones, expensive ones, in early spring, when the ground was quite bare and there was no suggestion that the catmint would become Master of the Universe. You don’t remember? Hmmm.  Catmint is cheap; peonies aren’t. Fix this!
  2. Satan sent them.  Mark them with a 666 label, and move them to the Beelzebub Garden/Compost Pile in late fall or early spring.
  3. All the catmints will be HUGE, no matter where you put them. Lovely, yes, and the bees adore them. Commit to them. Treat them as the giant plants they will become, but not where they will shade out the other lovelies.
  4. It flowered. It’s a weed that’s now gone to seed, spreading its progeny throughout the garden. Next spring there will be a hundred of them. If you were clever enough to make a note of its leaf shape, you might have saved yourself a few hours of weeding next year.
  5. Oh sure! You’ll never remember that, and come next spring, you’ll be looking for locations for iris divisions and you’ll have long forgotten about this spot.
  6. Photos will answer that question. If you’d photographed the gardens you wouldn’t be perpetuating this hugely irritating,’ hit or miss’ garden design approach, which, by the way, you would never in a million years, permit for your clients!
  7. But, you won’t. Not without a garden journal ‘To-Do’ List, entitled Fall 2014. When fall begins to roll around, which is right around the corner, you’ll be busy harvesting winter squash and leeks, chopping and splitting wood, moving tender plants into the greenhouse, bringing in firewood, lifting dahlia tubers, cleaning out the henhouse,…forget it.

And this is why I recommend keeping a Garden Journal. I’m a Luddite, so I like to use one that I purchase from Lee Valley, which has a perpetual calender and allows for an index/table of contents to reference the numbered pages. Here, I can make journal entries with their correlative page numbers, which makes referencing information very simple. Of course you could use an electronic device to do this, and there’s probably even an app for garden journaling. The main objective here is to take control of your landscape and gardens, as much as one can do such a thing, so as to avoid disappointment next season. A Garden Journal is a wondrous thing! Over the years, when  questions arise over how things were performing in the garden in the past, I simply scroll through the entries and discover the answers. It’s great fun and hugely useful and enlightening! Gardeners!!!!  Get a garden journal going, if you don’t already have one, and you’ll be gratified to learn what you have control over and what you don’t. It’s a great thing to have.

New Stonewell Farm Sign

Stonewell Farm sign

We’ve finally replaced the old sign

Well, we finally got around to replacing the old sign and the new and improved version permits us to add and subtract additional information as needed. In the dead of winter when the hens are slacking off, we’ll remove the Fresh Eggs sign. In the height of summer, when we have an abundance of fresh eggs, organic produce, herbs and cut flowers available, we’ll add those too. Stay tuned…..

Upcoming Dry Stone Wall Building Workshop in Connecticut

Stonewall Building Workshop
Andrew Pighills, 
Two-day workshop 
Saturday & Sunday, April 27th & 28th,  2019
Tuition: $350

Learn what it takes to build a dry stone wall from A Dry Stone Walling Association–certified instructor. Build a free-standing wall by applying four basic principles and employing a few simple techniques. From “founds” to “throughs” to “copes,” each stage in the construction will be explained and demonstrated. Participants will build a wall using native stone. This is a great chance to try something new or fine-tune skills you already have.

students learn how to build a dry stone wall

On Saturday evening we have a Pizza Party, where participants get to relax with drinks and pizza, cooked in our own outdoor wood fired oven.

20140928_090334                                  Pizza Oven

The workshop is a two-day event, Sat. and Sun. April 27th & 28th , 2019 and will be held at Stonewell Farm, 39 Beckwith Road in Killingworth, Connecticut. All instruction is on an individual basis. Pre-registration is required, as the workshops fill up quickly.

To register, contact:
Michelle Becker, Workshop Administrator
e-mail: stonewellcottage@gmail.com
Tel. 860-810-8802