We (royal we being used here as it was all Jeremy’s hard work) have finished the front wall repairs, complete with new fence; built some pillars and added our wombled gates.
The gates still need a good clean, some anti-rust treatment and a lick of paint, as well as some bolts to the ground and we still need to add a course of blocks and something to top the gateposts; but our land is secure at the front and the dogs can’t chase cars going up the lane anymore and we’re one step closer to being able to keep livestock.
Work began on January 2nd, when an obliging neighbour shared his dry-stone walling skills with Jeremy. After almost six months dry-stone walling (not continuously I might add) I thought I’d share some of the tricks of the trade learnt on the job.
As I blogged back in January dry-stone walling is like a giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle, where you start out with large flat-faced rocks on the outside, graduating to medium-sized rounded rocks as you build inwards, filling any gaps with smaller rocks.
Big stones, preferably ones with a flat face on at least one side, make up the outside faces of the wall on either side. They often need slivers of stone to hold them in position and many need chipping to size. Then the inside of the wall is filled with medium-sized stones or larger stones which don’t have a flat-ish side. Smaller pebbles are put between the in-fill and the faces as further support. It is quite important that some of the facing stones extend back into the in-fill to tie the whole structure together. As we needed a fence on top of the walls, Jeremy put a layer of cement on top of the wall. This also helps bond the wall together.
As he was building much of the wall in winter and spring, however every morning he spent laying the cement, seemed to attract rain or snow in the afternoon. Not such a problem for the cement per se, but it left the top of the cement resembling a gravel path, so when it was all dried out, he had to paint the top of the cement with what’s called a slip – just water and cement – to seal it. The slip has the added benefit of filling any little cracks in the cement that would otherwise hold water, which in a frost would expand and break up the cement bond.
Repairing the front wall was a mammoth undertaking and Jeremy’s going to continue to begin working on the side walls up as a far as the house and then take a long deserved break from breaking rocks in the hot sun.
He’s definitely got the dry-stone walling bug though, as he’s just built a new chicken run using a dry-stone wall base, with the very able assistance of our recent Ozzie helpxchangers (thanks Kate, Ross and Tali). In this particular instance dry-stone walls were preferable to using blocks as they allowed us to compensate for a slant in the land. I think it looks mighty fine too, and it rather puts the adjacent run to shame, so we’ll have to give that a dry-stone makeover once we finish repairing the rest of the walls around our property. Ho-hum, only around another 800-metres or so to go!
And just because I can, here’s one last shot looking down the drive at one of the walls. We were a bit worried the fencing would spoil the walls but it hasn’t altered our panorama any and it looks rather grand.