Saturday, March 5, 2016

Temporary Stone Pile

Finding this dry stone wall blown over came as a bit of a surprise.  We have been in the path of fierce polar winds and this wall had begun to show some signs of displacement in response to prevailing north winds.  The curved wall in the distance was carefully built as a wall and it remains unmoved.

When we build a wall that is intended to be permanent, the two faces are piled so that both are sloped inward.  Each is constantly falling toward the other and the net result is no movement.  This fallen wall was intended to be a temporary stone pile so less time and care was invested in stone placement.  Even the exposed end shows long vertical seams.  When building a stone wall it is customary to combine long and short stones in such a way that the exposed end surface is tightly laced by overlapping stones.

Our surface ground was deposited here by the last receding glacier.  Bedrock ridges pinch the valley nearly closed and a series of dams likely occurred here.  Rich farm fields upstream were formed when sediments were dropped in standing water.  Our land formed under far more turbulent conditions.  Dams formed and were quickly washed away.  Our surface deposits consist of more stone than soil and all is piled in a jumbled mess.  The size of the stones left behind vary widely from wall stones to sand.  To date no stone unearthed has proven too large to move but some have required splitting into several slabs before they could be removed using hand power.  The stones in this pile were unearthed when the nearby area was first disturbed intending to make another garden bed.  The larger wall stones were moved only a short distance.  Now they will be moved again.

Another practice in skilled wall building is to place the larger heavier stones at the top of the wall.  It is more work to lift big stones rather than simply roll them to a ground level placement.  Their concentrated mass is supposed to make the wall more resistant to movement.  That the end of the wall is still standing may point to the soundness of placing large stones at the top of the wall.

This stone pile has been in place for many years.   Minimal care was taken in the initial placement of the stones.  The resulting wall strayed several inches away from a straight line placement.  Becky strongly objected to tearing down the wall so that it could be correctly placed.  It did seem like a great deal of work for little gain.  Now the pile must be moved.  I swear that I had no active part in toppling the wall.  Unless the Big Bad Wolf was around it must have been the wind!

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