Life in a Dol house
2018  -  Week 37

Wild Walling

It's another week and I'm continuing with the dry stone walling. 

With the foundations in place, I measured and then marked where the new building corners will be. 

This is because the south west corner should be parallel with the corner of the fold yard wall.

Only by the time the building work starts, the original fold yard walling will not not exist any more, so this is the moment to do some accurate measuring and marking. 

Fortunately at this corner, there is a piece of the sandstone bedrock which I have exposed when I was doing the earth works for the rain water salvage system. 

Once marked, all I needed to do was drill the sandstone and insert a marker rod. 

The second reference point is on the building line, at the point where an extended line from the dining room wall meets it. 

Again there is a piece of bedrock visible, so one measured, checked, confirmed and marked, another hole was drilled and a marked rod inserted.

I then started to clear the roof of my wood store which had been built into the fold yard animal shelters.

This had been a convenient point to store "junk". 

Things like the chimney pipes for my wood stove, and chimney vents, together with lead piping I've salvaged and will take to a scrap yard at some point. 

Once the roof was reasonably clear, I took off the tiles and started to remove stones, sorting them as I go, cleaning any which need cleaning and the bits of tile and waste stone which have been used as infill being discarded. 

There is a lot of advice online about building dry stone walls. 

It all says you need room to work - something I don't have a lot of, and whilst there are copious instructions about building a wall, there is precious little about dismantling one. 

Knowing the construction order of foundation stones (very big), first lift stones, cross pieces, second lift stones, second cross pieces and top lift, I'm sorting the stones I remove into those general sections, to make it easy to select the stones I want to use when the building starts, later this week. 

Most stones are liftable, with just one or two that are too large and heavy for me to lift, so they are being rolled or levered into the storage space. 

It took just over a day to remove as much of the wall as I wanted, to provide building stones, without completely blocking the work area, and to still keep the roof over the dry timber intact. 

Once I started to break open the wall, it's recent origin became clear.

By recent I mean post 1945. 

The wall has not been well made. It's a bit of Wild Walling.

The centre is in places hollow, which accounts for why the wall was starting to collapse. I found rusty tins and also some bits of plastic. 

Compare that with the walls which border the green lanes and paths around my home, which are 150+ years old, and are only now starting to deteriorate because of the Wild Boar who root through the stones for food. 

They are sold, made out of very large field stones, built by craftsmen and have stood the test of time. 

Following last week's blog my neighbour contacted me and offered to help with the walling and moving the big stones. 

So on two days, there has been two of us doing the building work. And what a difference an extra pair of hands makes! 

By Saturday, the straight section of wall is complete and has been topped off with soil, ready for planting trailing Aubrieta

The curve around the old Myrobalan Plum is also complete with the stones lined up with where the section in front of the garden sheds will hold back a small flat working area - somewhere to cut logs etc.

We still had to use the chain hoist a couple of times to move the heaviest stones, but otherwise they were lifted, rolled or man handled into place. 

Saturday morning was spent in finishing the Coverband stones on the wall and completing the wall around the curve. 

What I've decided to do is to move the wood store, so it is against the new wall which will then free up quite a large amount of space to continue wall building, making the steps and generally easing the construction using the space in the old fold yard.

The next two weeks will be fine, warm and sunny, no sign at all of the rainfall which should be starting sometime soon. 

Looking back over the weather data for the past four years, each summer has been different, with lessening amounts of rainfall each year. 

This was brought home to me this week when a friend called round one evening to ask for help with some internet searching. This was before I had done my evening watering rounds and by the time he left, it was dark and too late. 

The next morning when I did my usual walk around, six of the young citrus trees in the orchard were showing signs of severe stress, with their leaves curled and drooping. 

I had only missed one evening's irrigation. 

This told me that the underlying soil is dry as deep as their roots go. 

Over time, they will of course extend their roots deep into the sub soil and rocks, to find moisture, but until they have, I will need to keep up with the drip irrigation. 

The base of each tree is already protected with a weed matt and thick mulch, but clearly this is not enough, even with irrigation, to stop the root system drying out. 

Getting ready for winter, I thought I would put some polish onto the funnel of my weather station's rain gauge. 

I think this is the first time I have opened it in perhaps three years. 

Some polish on the funnel to ensure every molecule of H2O is collected, was actually the least of the work. 

The see-saw dockets which fill rain with water then tilts, causing 0.7mm of water to be recorded as falling - the minimum quantity - were actually lined with dust and detritus. 

Even though the gauge is not left permanently outside (to preserve the plastic), it still caught wind borne sand, dust and particulates. 

I needed to remove the see-saw to get at the dockets to clean them, which once done showed the extent of the accumulation. This is where you need to think outside the box. I don't like throwing things away, so I have a box with old electric toothbrush heads in. I also have a used toothbrush motor in the workshop. 

So with something that most people probably just chuck away, I was able to rapidly clean the measuring units and the funnel, then apply some household polish to create a shiny surface so every last drop of rain is recorded.

The leaves on my Apricot tree in the courtyard have been slowly disappearing.

This isn't the early onset of the Autumn leaf fall, but rather the ravages of a pair of Egyptian Grasshopper nymphs, Anacridium aegyptium

Eight weeks ago, there were getting on for 10 tiny nymphs on the tree.  

I've since seen some of the little darlings in the courtyard, but just two remained.  

They have still not still not gained their adult wings so are at the 4th or 5th stage nymph.

As there were few leaves left, I have carefully relocated them into the Top Orchard where there is plenty of food and where they can over winter in safety.

I've used paper and pencil this week too. 

Even though I have been working in the digital world for thirty years, and have a drawing tablet, digital pens, scanner mouse and a variety of other digital tools and drawing software, There is still a place for the good old pencil and paper - recycled of course!

I have in my minds eye exactly what I want the finished wall shape to be. OK, I'm no Michael Angelo, but you get the idea....

It needs to be both functional and decorative - functional to hold back the soil in the old fold yard, and decorative, with spaces for wallflowers and plants, so it also becomes a haven for plant and insect life. 

I sometimes find it a lot easier just to sit and sketch something on paper, rather than creating a digital masterpiece with some of the expensive software I have. 

In fact I have a whole folder of drawings I've made since I moved to Dol. 

I marked a sweeping curve in the Top Orchard, where one wing of the wall will end. 

This will hold back the stone steps that will lead, as a feature into the orchard, so your eye is led from feature to feature. 

Then there is a perspective view looking up the steps. 

There are at least two landscape architects who I know are regular followers of my blog, so I should say that I am no Capability Brown either and I don't follow an particular school, although I have books by Gertrude Jekyll and Beth Chatto

It's just a questions of examining my available space and imagining the possible. 

Everything is a matter of scale. I'm dealing with an 800 meter² orchard rather than the thousand hectare Chatsworth Park that Capability Brown had as his canvas. 

I will have a water garden though. 

I have yet to find anything which resembles a park or garden, as they are known in other countries, here on the island.  The oasis of peace with riots of colourful plants as far as the eye cane see, and names on the plants and trees!  

So I intend to create my own!

But whilst it will have a variety of plants and shrubs from other similar tropical climates, it will also have local indigenous species too. 

Now where did I put my young Strawberry Tree (Arbutus)........?