A couple of months back I moved to North Carolina where my sister and I bought some property last fall. It’s a small bit of land, about 1.25 acres, and has an aging double-wide mobile home that was vacant for a couple of years and not very well cared for by the tenants who vacated it. But there is amble evidence that the first owners, some 25 years ago, really loved this land and this home. One bit of evidence is the stone wall.
Even though it was incredibly overgrown with English and Poison Ivy it captured the eye of both my sister and I when we first saw the place. We both felt the tug towards this familiar fixture from our New England youth, where gravity stone walls were as common as june bugs and birch trees.
Gravity stone walls are probably as old as man. Basically there isn’t much to them–find stones, stack them and you have a wall. There is, of course, much more to it than that.
The wall that we have on Fawn Hill is probably about 50 feet in length and was incredibly overgrown. Part of my summer months–a fairly big part–has been spent uncovering the wall. It has been hard work and not without some adventure. Like the time I was clipping the English Ivy and clipped the power cord to the water pump. The loppers I was using bear the scars–a notched blade and black soot. I’m lucky I didn’t kill myself.
Section of old wall that has slid away.
Oldest section of wall.
The oldest section is not hard to find. The rocks are aged and have moss and lichen growing on them. The wall is about a foot or so in depth at this section. It’s really beautiful, as you can see. The stones are stacked so wonderfully and remind me of stone walls that I’ve seen in Scotland and Ireland, walls that you know have been around for a long while. This section of wall has been my inspiration this summer. How I would love to see the entire wall look like this.
But the wall is in disrepair. Over the years sections have broken down and slid away. Repairs were attempted but evidence suggests the original mason was gone. In fact, I’m fairly certain there are several different masons on this wall. At one point the entire approach changes. No longer are the largest stones laid as a base to be stacked upon but are, instead, leaned against the bank. As a result the rocks are stacked more on the bank than on each other and tend to slide down behind the base stone. The approach seems self-defeating. No longer is all the pressure directed down but rather out, precisely the direction you do not want the wall to go.
I’ve puzzled what to do about this. For the time being at least the answer is relatively clear. I’ll keep clearing away the ivy and other detritus. Beating back the poison ivy is a top priority and ascertaining that there are no more hidden surprises, like the water pump power line, are upper most on the list. So is collecting rocks from various spots on the property. At one time some tenants savaged part of the wall to build a fire pit in the back yard. Still others seemed to have tried moving the wall out to the front of the house, near the driveway. The rocks are so poorly placed at this spot that it is likely this effort was more decorative in nature.
I have done my best to shore up one area but I had to build upon the leaning-against-style and I’m not entirely happy with the effort. But it looks a darn sight better than what was there to start with. There is something about the process–building a stone wall–that is wonderfully basic and rewarding. Stay tuned. I feel almost certain I will write about this again. ☙