Lecture on stone-wall building, with miniature stone wall built

Brian sez, "My library hosted Kevin Gardner, a New Hampshire native and builder/restorer of traditional New England stone walls. He talked about the history of stone walls in New England, and how they shaped - and were shaped by - the landscape and circumstances of the region and country. I thought BoingBoing readers would be interested in the talk alone, but the bonus is that the entire time he's talking, he's also building a miniature stone wall from rocks he brought in two five-gallon buckets."

Chelmsford Library Anytime: Exhibits and Videos (Thanks, Brian!)


  1. I get that the speaker does this for a living, but it’s still mindblowing to see him build a mini-wall almost as a distraction during the talk.

  2. Are you serious?
    As someone who grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland I’ve build more stone walls then I can shake a stick at. Stick the guy out in a field in the middle of winter when it’s pissing rain and freezing cold, let him herd a few hundred sheep and once he is good and cold then lets see him rebuild a double stone wall.

    Two buckets of small stones in a warm dry class room != mind blowing.

    1. New Hampshire winters are not considered mild. “Middle of winter” does not mean rain, it means snow measured in feet.  If it’s raining in winter, the weather is considered mild.  

      1. Prompting me to ask many times why my parents built the outhouse so far from the house.

    2. You are joking right?  He said upfront that the miniature wall was just something for his hands to do, it wasn’t the point of the video.  I live in New England and have grown up with these walls everywhere and I was fascinated to learn the whys and wherefores and history of them. EDIT: Oh, I see, you meant to reply to the poster who found the mini-wall mindblowing — well, to be honest, it was pretty mindblowing that he could multi-task doing that at the same time as giving such a detailed and engrossing talk.

      1. It was actually a deft illustration of the actual inner workings of the craft, because it is sometimes boring.  A mind must be attuned to quiet long hours of stacking, retrying, restacking, tossing aside, measuring, lifting, turning, flipping, OUCH, turning again, look for shim, reposition, nudge, and so on.  It is grueling work, but damn is it rewarding.  I’ve built some walls around my land and with friends and it sure is a great way to spend time outdoors, but you do get tired and it can get monotonous.  So you look for some filler to your wall-building and I don’t mean riprap.  I mean, whistling, singing, thinking, talking to yourself or to other people if you should be so lucky as to have a helper.  New England walls have treated me well, over the years.  I loved this guy’s talk.  He’s funny and intelligent and a little in your face, like a lot of stone builders… they tend to not take shit, and not really even dish it either.  They are interesting folk, the ones I’ve met.

    3. Are YOU serious? You think this guy hasn’t built walls in “bad” weather? Or are you just  envious, or looking for pity for something you were in some way forced to do?

  3. Wait, this is still the ASMR page, right?

    Nashville up by the Warner parks is full of dry stone walls that are very distinctive and beautiful.  There is a different tradition and look to them both in how they’re laid and also I’m pretty sure they’re limestone.  I’m told they were built by slaves.  

    1. I did too, it’s great seeing and hearing about something that perhaps is technological, but not modern, more technological history.

  4. Very nice and all, but before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense.

      1. I actually came to the comments just to drop a link: http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/frost-mending.html

  5. I love the embedded player for this video! It can be popped out into a separate window and it resizes with the window. It’s fantastic!

    There is, however, something contradictory about the idea of the ‘New England potato’ and the idea that every stone has an ambition to sink to the center of the earth.

    1.  I think he should have said every stone in a wall has an ambition to sink to the center of the earth.  Every rock already in the dirt has an ambition to break free of the dirt. Having built a few hundred feet of wall in New England myself, I can safely say this observation is 100% accurate.

      1. I prefer to think of it as the dirt wanting to throw up the rocks.  In spring thaw, you see the dirt pulling back in a ring to reveal the rock inside the hole, being disgorged.  The rock, if it had its druthers, would comfortably sink to the center of the earth, but the earth has a different idea. Perhaps the earth is ambitious and the rocks are content.

    2.  This player looks like a white rectangle with the word ‘forbidden’ on it.  This player won’t play. 

      1. Dang. Nice presentation, and impressive that he made his cute little wall while giving the talk.

    3. Stones are like cats; they always want to be somewhere they shouldn’t.  In the case of fields, they usually want to bubble up to the surface where you can trip on them or break a plow blade.  In walls, OTOH, they want to fall over or sink.

  6. There where it is we do not need the wall:

    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

    My apple trees will never get across

    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

    He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’. 

    -Robert Frost

  7. When I was young, I asked a farmer what grows best in my home town area.  “Rocks, mostly”.

  8. I did a bit of dry stone work with my father. Its quite difficult. Not necessarily physically, but like a puzzle you’ll never be able to figure the shit out. We made some (we thought) fairly nice little walls around some of his gardens. When the pro mason came by to lay brick walkways he mocked us then offered to redo the walls for free.

  9. So yeah did anybody else get to the part about dismantling the walls and how they could be worth up to 800 bucks a ton and immediately start calling quarries throughout new england and try to get price quotes for the derelict walls on their property…. 

  10. I tried to sign up for a traditional stone wall building a couple of years ago, helping to restore a dog pound.  I’m wondering if it was with this guy.  The experience was frustrating because they made no arrangements for transport between the hotel and the site several miles distant, having no car I chose to drop out rather than show up and risk not having a way between sleep and site.

    Disclaimer:  I haven’t actually watched the video yet, maybe this guy talks about the pound the entire time.

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